‘We need answers. Lots of them.’ What’s known and what’s next after Jeffrey Epstein’s death

Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire financier indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges, died after he was discovered unresponsive from an “apparent suicide” on Saturday morning in a federal detention center in Manhattan. His death has raised questions about the investigation and its political implications.

What happens to the case now?

Epstein’s death comes a day after new documents pertaining to his global sex-trafficking ring were unsealed in court filings on Friday.

On Saturday, Attorney General William P. Barr said that he was “appalled” after hearing about the suspect’s death and that many questions would need to be answered, according to a Justice Department statement. Barr said he “consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”

Epstein was placed on suicide watch last month but then taken off within about a week, a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Washington Post. But he was subject to higher security in a special housing unit.

Because Epstein is dead, the criminal case is over, but that doesn’t mean all investigations surrounding the allegations will cease, said Paul Butler, a professor of law at Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor.

He said investigators may now turn to others who were accused of being involved with the sex-trafficking activities. According to Butler, this is partly because accusers feel they haven’t received justice.

“Even though the criminal prosecution of Mr. Epstein ended this morning, there remained questions about co-conspirators,” Butler said.

Attorneys representing some accusers said they will continue to seek justice.

There’s a whole network that enabled him and allowed this to happen, and it’s time that everyone who was a part of this be held accountable,” said Kimberly Lerner, an attorney for one of Epstein’s accusers.

Jennifer Araoz, Lerner’s client and one of the women who has accused Epstein, said in a statement that she and others will have to “live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed — the pain and trauma he caused so many people.”

“Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served. I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, and ensure redress for his victims,” Araoz said.

Brad Edwards, a lawyer who represents some of the other alleged victims said: “The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is both unfortunate and predictable. While he and I engaged in contentious legal battles for more than a decade, this is not the ending anyone was looking for. The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused.”

How are lawmakers reacting?

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reacted to Saturday’s news with frustration and sadness. Reactions were especially strong from New York and Florida, where Epstein had residences and allegations were made.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “We need answers. Lots of them.”

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said the “victims have once again been denied their day in court.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a statement on Saturday: “The victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s heinous actions deserved an opportunity for justice. Today, that opportunity was denied to them. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a statement on Saturday: “The victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s heinous actions deserved an opportunity for justice. Today, that opportunity was denied to them. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said on Twitter he couldn’t “even begin to imagine how many horrific secrets this sick perv is taking to the grave.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) wrote in a letter to Barr: “Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him. Given Epstein’s previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tweeted he was “pleased the @TheJusticeDept Inspector General and FBI will be investigating. There are many questions that need to be answered in this case.”

On Saturday afternoon, Trump retweeted conspiracy theories that blamed the Clintons for Epstein’s death. Earlier in the day, Trump appointee Lynn Patton, an administrator at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), similarly targeted Hillary Clinton in an Instagram post.

What do we know about the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was found dead?

The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan has held various criminals, ranging from Bernard Madoff, who orchestrated an enormous Ponzi scheme, to notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. In June, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was moved to the MCC, The Post reported.

According to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an al-Qaeda conspirator, the prison at Guantanamo Bay was “more pleasant” and “more relaxed” than the federal facility, the New York Times reported in 2010.

What do we know about suicide in jail?

Suicide is the most common cause of death in jails, where 50 of every 100,000 inmates died by suicide in 2014 — a rate 3.5 times that of the general population, the Associated Press reported. High rates of addicted and mentally ill people behind bars are believed to contribute to the problem, as well as possible poor treatment of inmates and the stress of being incarcerated.

Among the most high-profile inmate suicides in recent years is the death of Sandra Bland, a Texas woman whom police say they pulled over in July 2015 because she failed to signal while she changed lanes. Authorities said Bland, 28, hanged herself within three days of being arrested on a charge of assaulting an officer.

In the year after Bland’s death, at least 815 people died by suicide in U.S. jails, HuffPost reported. Suicides accounted for nearly one-third of the jail deaths counted by the news organization, which said its numbers were incomplete because of lack of access to data.

Former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein said Saturday on Twitter that preventing self-harm by people accused of pedophilia is difficult. A report in the journal Federal Probation that he posted says defendants charged with sex crimes often experience suicidal ideation because of shame and the likelihood of a prison sentence.

The report cites a suicide prevention program in the Central District of California that involves a psychological assessment, support group sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy, lessons on healthy coping skills and education about the federal prison system. None of the 100 defendants that had gone through the program when the report was released had died by suicide.

In addition to whether a defendant is a flight risk and the likelihood that they will commit criminal activity, the report said, judges should consider the risk of suicide when deciding whether to grant someone pretrial release.

At William Barr Hearings, Mueller Probe in Focus

In response to questions, Mr. Barr said he viewed Mr. Mueller as a fair-minded investigator who would treat the president fairly. “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said, contradicting Mr. Trump’s favorite description of the special counsel’s investigation.

.. Mr. Barr told Ms. Feinstein his memo was “entirely proper.” He was concerned by news accounts of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, he said, and thought such a theory “would have a chilling effect going forward over time.”

Mr. Barr said he expressed his concerns to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over lunch before putting them in writing. “He did not respond and was sphinx-like in his reaction, but I expounded on my concerns.”

.. The nominee also said he had expressed similar concerns to Justice Department officials regarding the prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) on bribery allegations, saying, “I thought the prosecution was based on a fallacious theory.” That case ended in a hung jury.

.. Likely to be of particular concern to Democrats is Mr. Barr’s disclosure Monday night that he had sent the memo to a wider group of Trump lawyers than was previously known, including Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin and Pat Cipollone, a former Justice Department colleague who is now White House counsel. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have said Mr. Trump should withdraw Mr. Barr’s nomination given his views in the letter.

.. “I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views,” he said.

On the Mueller probe more broadly, Mr. Barr said in prepared remarks: “I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.” He will add: “On my watch, Bob [Mueller] will be allowed to complete his work.”

.. If Mr. Barr is confirmed, it would bring together a forceful advocate of executive power with a president who has shown no problem wielding that power in unconventional ways. Mr. Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush… As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the late 1980s, Mr. Barr advised that a president has the authority to use the military without congressional support, a position that helped underpin the invasion of Panama and later the deployment of troops to Somalia. He urged Mr. Bush to pardon six Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra matter in 1992; Democrats want to grill him on his reasoning at the time and how he would react to potential pardons of Trump aides who have been convicted in the Russia probe.

In his first stint as attorney general, from 1991 to 1993, Mr. Barr pushed tough-on-crime policies and took a hard-line approach to immigration, which could come into sharper focus as senators ask him about Mr. Trump’s push for a wall along the U.S. southern border.

.. Mr. Barr spent more than 25 years in the corporate world since serving as attorney general, developing a reputation as an aggressive lawyer who forcefully represented his clients. He served as the top lawyer for the telecommunications company that became Verizon Communications Inc., and he later worked on behalf of other large companies in private practice.

Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional

The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation.

What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

.. He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional.

.. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

But Professor Calabresi and Mr. Trump were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very significant consequence today.

It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.

.. the the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.

.. If you don’t believe us, then take it from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom Mr. Trump once called his “favorite” sitting justice. Last year, the Supreme Court examined the question of whether the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board had been lawfully appointed to his job without Senate confirmation. The Supreme Court held the appointment invalid on a statutory ground.

.. Justice Thomas agreed with the judgment, but wrote separately to emphasize that even if the statute had allowed the appointment, the Constitution’s Appointments Clause would not have. The officer in question was a principal officer, he concluded. And the public interest protected by the Appointments Clause was a critical one: The Constitution’s drafters, Justice Thomas argued, “recognized the serious risk for abuse and corruption posed by permitting one person to fill every office in the government.” Which is why, he pointed out, the framers provided for advice and consent of the Senate.

.. What goes for a mere lawyer at the N.L.R.B. goes in spades for the attorney general of the United States, the head of the Justice Department and one of the most important people in the federal government.

Mr. Whitaker has not been named to some junior post one or two levels below the Justice Department’s top job. He has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entireUnited States government, including the power to supervise Senate-confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.

.. We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation. (Yes, he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor in Iowa, in 2004, but Mr. Trump can’t cut and paste that old, lapsed confirmation to today.) For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.

.. Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation.
.. As we wrote last week, the Constitution is a bipartisan document, written for the ages to guard against wrongdoing by officials of any party. Mr. Whitaker’s installation makes a mockery of our Constitution and our founders’ ideals. As Justice Thomas’s opinion in the N.L.R.B. case reminds us, the Constitution’s framers “had lived under a form of government that permitted arbitrary governmental acts to go unchecked.” He added “they knew that liberty could be preserved only by ensuring that the powers of government would never be consolidated in one body.”

We must heed those words today.

Trump Fired His Most Effective Lieutenant

The outgoing attorney general did more to enact the president’s priorities than any other member of the Cabinet, but that didn’t save him from White House hostility.

The paradox of Jeff Sessions’s tenure as attorney general is that no member of the Trump administration was so beleaguered and disparaged by President Trump, but no member got as much done.

Even as he endured persistent verbal abuse from the president, Sessions steamed forward on a range of conservative social-policy priorities, aggressively reorienting the Justice Department’s stances on immigration, civil rights, and criminal justice, among other issues. In an administration plagued by incompetent and ineffective figures, Sessions was a paragon of efficacy—a distinction that horrified his many opponents, but did nothing to win Trump’s trust or affection.
  • When it came time for Trump to pull the plug on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as he had promised he would during the 2016 campaign, the president got cold feet, but Sessions was happy to be the public face of the withdrawal. It was Sessions who
  • tried to follow through (unsuccessfully) on Trump’s threat to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. It was Sessions who issued new guidance to immigration judges. And, most prominent, it was Sessions who
  • went to the border to announce the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents.
Sessions openly said the plan to split families up was intended to deter migrants, even as other administration officials said otherwise. The policy was met with widespread and appropriate horror, and Trump eventually pulled back—but he had backed the plan before that, and Sessions had followed through.

.. But these weren’t just Sessions’s pet issues. They were Trump’s as well. Hardline immigration policies, giving police free rein, fighting phantom voter fraud—these were all signature Trump projects. Sessions had been the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump, and Trump took from him a range of policy concepts—especially on immigration—as well as a top adviser, Stephen Miller.
But Sessions’s stewardship of those projects didn’t return him to favor with Trump, who, according to Bob Woodward’s book Fear, called Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.”

.. When McGahn’s departure was announced in August, I wrote that he’d been the most effective person in the West Wing, through his stewardship of judicial appointments. But Trump disliked and distrusted McGahn, and seemed eager to have him gone.
.. Of course, the same issue poisoned both Sessions’s and McGahn’s relationships with Trump: the Russia investigation, and especially Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s takeover of it.
.. Trump was angry that neither man had protected him. He raged at Sessions’s lack of “loyalty” and complained that Attorney General Eric Holder had “totally protected” Barack Obama. (What he meant by that is unclear.) He twice instructed McGahn to fire Mueller, and McGahn twice refused, once threatening to resign.
.. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker assumes control of Mueller’s probe. Whitaker was outspokenly critical of the special counsel’s inquiry before joining the administration, so Trump may now have a leader of the Justice Department who is more pliable on the Mueller front. But the president is unlikely to find an attorney general who will do as much to move his priorities forward as Sessions did—and the new attorney general will come into the job knowing that loyalty and efficacy aren’t enough to garner favor with Trump.

Rosenstein Defends the Mueller Probe

For all of the president’s Twitter tantrums about how the investigation is supposedly “rigged,” Mueller has never alleged that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s election meddling.

This is not for lack of thoroughness on the prosecutor’s part. Mueller has brought two sweeping indictments against Russian operatives. Rosenstein made these charges a point of emphasis in the interview. It is noteworthy, then, that these narrative “speaking indictments” appear to preclude the possibility of a conspiratorial relationship between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. They indicate that Russia was conducting influence operations before Trump entered the campaign, that it orchestrated some against Trump, and that it wanted deniability.

Clearly, Rosenstein has been fixed on something often ignored by the president: Trump would benefit from being exonerated after a searching investigation by Mueller.

..  He appointed Mueller at the end of a frenetic week in which, reportedly distraught, he discussed the possibility of covertly recording Trump at meetings to demonstrate the latter’s instability. This would be a prelude to invoking the 25th Amendment
.. The Mueller appointment — after Rosenstein considered naming former Obama deputy attorney general James Cole — was designed to signal to the Washington establishment that Rosenstein (confirmed 94–6, thanks to overwhelming Democratic support in the Senate) was still on the team.
.. For Trump’s part, moreover, it would be foolish to believe that the president’s drumbeat against the investigation means he fails to grasp the potential benefit of being cleared by Mueller. He surely gets it. Yet, unlike Rosenstein, Trump has had to live with the challenges of governing under a cloud of suspicion
.. he may well believe these costs have outweighed any benefit he’d get from being cleared for something there was never much evidence he did. Plus, the president is nothing if not shrewd. There are political advantages in ripping the probe. He does not forfeit the upside of exoneration by stressing that his campaign and administration have been targeted by an investigation rife with leaks and other irregularities. Even if the riled-up Trump base believes the probe is a witch hunt, it would still credit him for being cleared.
.. Rosenstein maintains — in the Journal’s words — that “the investigation has already revealed a widespread effort by Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
.. In fact, the indictments are more in the nature of publicity stunts than charging instruments. Foreign powers are subjected to counterintelligence investigations, not criminal probes, in part because they are essentially immune from prosecution. Mueller’s indictments against Russians enable Rosenstein and the special counsel’s other cheerleaders to argue that the dozens of people charged show that the special-counsel appointment was — as Rosenstein claims — “appropriate and independent.”
.. But they don’t. An indictment is just an allegation; it does not prove anything. More to the point, everyone — very much including Rosenstein and Mueller — is well aware that Vladimir Putin was never, ever going to turn his operatives over to the American justice system for trial. As I’ve pointed out before, there are another 143 million people in Russia, and if Mueller were to charge every one of them, he’d have very impressive indictment statistics but he won’t have proved anything, and he won’t have come close to establishing that anyone in America, let alone the president of the United States, colluded in election interference.
.. there is no reason the indictments against Russians could not have been filed by the Justice Department without the appointment of a special counsel
.. Rosenstein refused to discuss well-sourced reports that he suggested covertly recording the president. It is not apparent whether he was asked about proposing that the 25th Amendment be invoked against Trump. Nor is there indication that Rosenstein was pressed on such flashpoints as whether he actually read the FISA surveillance warrant against a former Trump campaign official that he approved in June 2017
.. (The warrant expressly said that the FBI believed that Trump campaign officials were likely complicit in Russia’s election interference.) And was Rosenstein asked about the Justice Department’s stonewalling of congressional inquiries into apparent investigative irregularities? We don’t know.
.. a reader who had not been following the storms engulfing Rod Rosenstein’s tenure as deputy attorney general would come away come away from the Journal’s interview wondering why there is so much fuss about such a dedicated, unassuming public servant.

How Rosenstein can protect the Mueller investigation — even if he’s fired

Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, this week called for Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who would probably replace Rosenstein in overseeing Mueller’s work if Rosenstein leaves office, to “pause” the investigation and to take “a step back.”

Which is why Rosenstein should prepare for Thursday by sending Congress, through appropriate channels, a description of the evidence of wrongdoing Mueller has already turned up. There’s no way to know what a meeting with the volatile president might bring. And the search for the truth might depend on what steps Rosenstein takes beforehand.

.. There are all sorts of ways a Trumpist replacement for Rosenstein could stymie an investigation, ranging from dramatic (firing Mueller outright) to low-key (refusing to provide Congress with any interim reports and simply dragging the investigation out endlessly, without any updates to the public) or even more subtle (starving the budget or depriving Mueller of key personnel).

.. Trump here has pointedly not made the same promise that Nixon did in 1974, which is that he and the acting attorney general would not remove the special counsel without the express agreement of both the majority and minority in Congress.

..  “If President Trump cannot agree to an investigation modeled on what Richard Nixon agreed to, the question will linger: Just what is he afraid of?”

.. Rosenstein could, right now, tell Congress (or even a small group of members, with appropriate safeguards, including secrecy) what has happened — what Mueller has learned so far, whether Rosenstein has ever said “no” to Mueller and where the investigation is headed now.

Mr. Rosenstein, What Is the Crime?

if a Democratic takeover of the House is to be avoided, the GOP desperately needs the voters who reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump only because he was not Hillary Clinton.

.. You may notice that Mrs. Clinton is not on the ballot this time. Meanwhile, in just the last few days, the president has attacked his attorney general yet again, this time for prosecuting two allegedly corrupt Republican congressmen and thus refusing to politicize the Justice Department; he has conflated himself with the country in absurdly suggesting that an anonymous derogatory op-ed by an administration official might amount to “TREASON,” such that the New York Times should “turn [the author] over to the government at once” for the sake of “National Security”

.. It’s about the Presidency, Not the President
More to the point, these derelictions — the president’s self-supplied fuel for the media narrative of an unhinged chief executive — make it politically risky for Republicans to defend the presidency by defending the president from what appears to be an unwarranted investigation.

.. To be clear, if there is probable cause to believe that Donald Trump was criminally complicit in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he must be investigated, and the nation must resign itself to the compromised administration that entails. But we have never been told, much less shown, that this is the case. It is supposed to be established before the investigation commences.

.. administration officials have had to go into their own pockets, paying millions in legal fees to defend themselves and comply with the special counsel’s demands

.. the signal has gone out to the meritorious people we should want to serve in future administrations: Why leave your prestigious, profitable job to serve in government and risk financial and reputational ruin?

.. 1. Rectitude
Mueller’s personal rectitude would be irrelevant. If he or you don’t think so, go ask Ken Starr. In any event, a prosecutor’s personal integrity is never dispositive when he or she commences an investigation, seeks a warrant, or tries an accused. What matters is whether the laws and rules have been satisfied.

2. Special Counsel Neither Necessary Nor Authorized for Investigation of Russia 
If the president were a Democrat, it would be pointed out that to question the special counsel’s criminal investigation of the president is not to question the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The latter is vital. No one denies that it should be aggressively pursued to its conclusion.

Moreover, if the counterintelligence investigation were incidentally to turn up concrete evidence that Donald Trump had committed a crime, no one denies that a special counsel appointment would be appropriate at that time. (Get it? Evidence of crime first, then assignment of prosecutor.) But unless and until that were to happen, a counterintelligence investigation does not need a prosecutor at all, much less a special counsel. That is why the aforementioned special-counsel regulations do not authorize an appointment for counterintelligence cases.

.. 3. Conflict of Interest
It is a condition precedent to the appointment of a special counsel that there be a conflict of interest. There is no such conflict preventing the Justice Department from investigating Russian interference in the election. If that were not obvious enough, Mueller himself has elucidated the point by transferring the two indictments he has brought against Russian operatives to Justice Department components — the “Troll Farm” case to the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, and the hacking case to Main Justice’s National Security Division. If there were a conflict of interest, it would be inappropriate for the special counsel to make such transfers.

.. But while we’re on the subject of conflicts . . . let’s have a brief look at Mueller’s staff.

.. Of course, for the sake of his own credibility, Mueller is foolish to have stacked his staff with partisans. (Please, spare me the blather about how the Justice Department is not allowed to inquire about party affiliation when hiring. These are not obscure lawyers who applied for a job; they are well-known lawyers whom Mueller recruited into a hyperpolitical case, fully aware that they are activist Democrats.) But there is foolish, and then there is disqualifying. Being a Democrat is not disqualifying.

.. So whom does he turn around and recruit? Well, his chief deputy is Andrew Weissman, and his main legal beagle is Michael Dreeben. They were two of the top officials at the purportedly conflicted DOJ — respectively, chief of the criminal-fraud section and deputy solicitor general. Before her stint as Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, Jeannie Rhee was DOJ’s deputy assistant attorney general. She, like several other members of Mueller’s bloated staff, comes to the task of investigating the president either directly from the purportedly conflicted Justice Department or after a brief stint in private practice.

.. In any proper special-counsel investigation, it would be worth asking why, if the Justice Department is too conflicted to handle the case, its top officials are an ethical fit to staff the case. In this particular investigation, however, the actions of the Justice Department (and the FBI)

..  Weissman’s adulation of former acting attorney general Sally Yates for insubordinately defying the president on an enforcement matter, is it not worth asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself but Weissman gets to run the investigation?

.. If a Democrat were in the White House, it wouldn’t happen. Because if a Democrat were in the White House, and Weissman & Co. were Republicans transferred over from the Republican DOJ now under investigation, congressional Democrats would be screaming that there was no conflict of interest warranting the appointment of a special counsel, and that the only apparent conflict involved the prosecutors. And Republicans sages would be meekly agreeing — as would I (less meekly, I hope).

.. There is one thing and one thing alone that would justify the appointment of a special counsel: concrete evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime in connection with Russia’s election interference. So, to repeat: For precisely what federal crime is the president of the United States under investigation?