The first is whether Trump can even pick an acting AG. As you may recall from David Shulkin’s exit as veterans affairs secretary, there is an open question as to whether the Federal Vacancies Reform Act allows a president to temporarily replace a Cabinet official he has fired — as opposed to one who has resigned. If Sessions forces Trump to fire him, there could be a legal battle over Trump’s authority to pick a temporary replacement who would outrank Rosenstein. Otherwise, Rosenstein would effectively take over. So there’s no guarantee of success for Trump there.
If Trump was able to pick a temporary replacement, it couldn’t be just anybody; it would have to be someone who has already been confirmed by the Senate or (less likely) a Justice Department employee with a high enough rank. The former would seem to afford more of a chance of inserting a loyalist.
.. “Whomever Trump appoints as a so-called acting AG in the short term will probably have greater practical significance than whom he nominates for Senate confirmation,” Lederman said.
That’s in part because it would be the person who could take over immediately, and in part because it would be someone who wouldn’t be subject to political maneuvering. The full-time replacement, after all, needs to be confirmed.
.. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for instance, has said, “I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he is executing his job rather than choosing to act like a partisan hack.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she doesn’t think a new AG will even be confirmed if Trump fires Sessions.
.. Another interesting subplot is whether the new attorney general or acting attorney general might also insert themselves in the Cohen probe, in which the former Trump attorney has just implicated the president in campaign-finance violations over hush-money payments. But SDNY has historically been very independent of the main Justice Department, and that would lead an internal clash, according to experts.
.. Ultimately, as with so many other things, this boils down to how much Republicans are willing to put up with from Trump — and whether they feel they can stop him. Also, as with so many other things, it will probably take only one or two of them to actually stand in his way.
.. Most times, they haven’t been prepared to actually fight him, or they’ve fought him only partially, succumbing to the politics of the day in the GOP. This situation could be different for a whole host of reasons, but as Graham demonstrated, we also haven’t seen anyone draw a true line in the sand and stick to it yet.
How Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter and two other Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly shaping the Trump administration’s veterans policies.
.. shortly after Peter O’Rourke became chief of staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he received an email from Bruce Moskowitz with his input on a new mental health initiative for the VA.
.. an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago
.. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump’s. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.
.. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”
.. they downplayed their influence, insisting that nobody is obligated to act on their counsel.
.. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” a former administration official said.
.. If the bureaucracy resists the trio’s wishes, Perlmutter has a powerful ally: The President of the United States. Trump and Perlmutter regularly talk on the phone and dine together when the president visits Mar-a-Lago. “On any veterans issue, the first person the president calls is Ike,”
.. VA leaders who were at odds with the Mar-A-Lago Crowd were pushed out or passed over.
.. Offering more private healthcare to vets was a signature promise of Trump’s campaign, but at that point he hadn’t decided who should lead an effort that would reverse the VA’s longstanding practices.
.. Perlmutter then recommended Shulkin to Trump
.. Once nominated, Shulkin flew to Mar-a-Lago in early February 2017 to meet with Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz.
.. Moskowitz elaborated on the terms of their relationship. “We do not need to meet in person monthly, but meet face to face only when necessary,” he wrote. “We will set up phone conference calls at a convenient time.”
.. Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman acted like board members pounding a CEO to turn around a struggling company
.. “Everything needs to be run by them,” the first former official said, recalling the process. “They view themselves as making the decisions.”
.. They planned to promote the campaign by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange around the time of Veterans Day.
The event also turned into a promotional opportunity for Perlmutter’s company. Executives from Marvel and its parent company, Disney, joined Johnson & Johnson as sponsors of the Veterans Day event at the stock exchange.
.. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd grew frustrated with Shulkin, feeling like he wasn’t listening to them, and Perlmutter came to regret recommending Shulkin to Trump in the first place
.. Trump initially nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson to replace Shulkin, with Pentagon official Robert Wilkie filling in on a temporary basis. On Wilkie’s first day at the VA, Sherman was waiting for him in his office, according to a calendar record.
Within a few weeks, Wilkie made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago.
Tom Bossert is leaving as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, an abrupt departure that comes as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser moves to establish power.
.. Mr. Bossert’s position was on the same level as that of John Bolton, who just began as national security adviser on Monday. His departure also came days after Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, resigned
.. Mr. Bossert came into the job with high praise from lawmakers from both parties. But after he took the job, current and former staffers at the National Security Council said he repeatedly clashed with former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and they said Mr. Bossert failed to develop a cyberstrategy or a counterterrorism policy as planned.
.. Mr. Bossert’s departure is likely to empower Mr. Bolton
.. Mr. Bossert’s departure was a sign that Mr. Bolton was quickly moving to consolidate power.
.. “This is an assertion of the primacy of the national security adviser,” the person said.
Shulkin told The Washington Post on Friday, as he told CNN on Sunday, that he did not resign and was instead fired after being undermined by political appointees.
.. “I don’t think that this was the president,” Shulkin told Tapper. “The president is committed to improving the care for veterans. These appointees had a belief that there was a different way to do that than I did … these individuals, when they didn’t see that their way was being adopted, used subversive techniques to change the leadership at VA.”
Shulkin’s description of what happened clashes with that of the Trump administration. On Friday, Shulkin told The Post that he was told by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he was being pushed out. But Saturday, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters told Politico that “Secretary Shulkin resigned from his position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Asked on Sunday about Shulkin’s description of what happened, Walters repeated that statement.
.. The questions about Shulkin’s removal may well end up in court. Democrats, who, like Shulkin, believe that the Trump administration is attempting to elevate people who favor privatizing VA’s services, could sue over any major decisions made by Wilkie, arguing that the 1998 law on vacancies does not apply when appointees are fired.