Will Jeffrey Rosen bow to Donald Trump's demand? POTUS may push acting AG for special counsel in Hunter Biden probe
This could lead to a showdown between the president and the incoming acting AG Jeffrey Rosen who will take over after Barr vacates office on December 23
President Donald Trump just saw his long-time aide William Barr stepping down from the post of the attorney general and now, the former is considering the appointment of a special counsel to pursue a federal tax probe into Hunter Biden, the son of President-elect Joe Biden. This could lead to a showdown between the president and the incoming acting AG Jeffrey Rosen who will take over after Barr vacates office on December 23. Trump called Rosen "an outstanding person" while conforming the news of Barr stepping down.
...Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all! pic.twitter.com/V5sqOJT9PM— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2020
Trump was angry that Barr did not choose to publicize the ongoing probe into Hunter and spoke on the matter with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and other allies from outside the White House, the Associated Press reported citing a number of officials of the Trump administration close to the White House who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The report also said that besides appointing the special prosecutor to probe Hunter, Trump is also keen to have another special counsel to look into his claims of election fraud, which according to him and his allies, stole the November poll from him. The president has taken several legal steps hoping to overturn the results of the election that went to Biden but none of them could bring him relief and now, he is finding his support thinning among fellow GOP members, leaving the battle futile.
But could Trump’s plans land him on a collision course with Rosen? An experienced litigator, Rosen has worked as Barr’s deputy since May 2019 but has chosen to remain away from the spotlight most of the time. On Tuesday, December 15, he said in a statement that he was “honored” to serve as the acting AG and “will continue to focus on the implementation of the Department’s key priorities”. But the 62-year-old former corporate lawyer and deputy secretary of transportation, who will be in charge during Trump’s last month in office, could find himself in the middle of a political storm created by the outgoing commander-in-chief who is yet to concede defeat and wants his domestic opponents prosecuted or even imprisoned. Trump was also not impressed with Barr because the latter could not fulfill his wish.
One can already see the signs of what could be coming. The AP report said that Trump is still considering whether to pressure Rosen to appoint the special counsel or if required, replace him with someone more pliant. He has reportedly asked his lawyers, including the trusted Rudy Giuliani, to see whether he could appoint a special counsel himself. One needs to wait and see whether Rosen can withstand the immense pressure that Trump could create in his last days as President which could also see a barrage of attacks if the former fails to meet the expectations. With Trump not having much time to turn around things (which he is anyhow unlikely to achieve), Rosen is also in the danger of not lasting his full tenure of less than a month.
Rosen said he will say 'no' when required
Rosen might not be a man who would surrender to Trump’s whims. The man, who has been the public face of the justice department’s biggest involvements, including an antitrust case against Google and the criminal case against opioid maker Purdue Pharma, suggested during his confirmation last year that he was willing to withstand political pressure from the White House, if needed. The veteran told the legislators that criminal probes should “proceed on the facts and the law” and that prosecutions should be “free of improper political influences”.
That the man is not one to fool around became evident when he said at the time: “If the appropriate answer is to say no to somebody, then I will say no.”
Trump aides want a special counsel to ensure that the incoming Biden administration has a headache from Day 1 since a probe, if started, could not easily be stopped by the incoming president.
“Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest -- reasons that must be spelled out in writing. Appointing a special counsel for the Hunter Biden probe would also signal a more prolonged and complicated investigation than the current inquiry, so far largely centered on his taxes. A subpoena seeking documents from the younger Biden asked for information related to more than two dozen entities, including Ukraine gas company Burisma,” the AP report said.
A probe will make Biden’s task of picking an attorney-general difficult since the new office-holder will have the heavy responsibility of probing the president’s son on his shoulders. The president’s nomination for the top post will be scrutinized at the confirmation hearing about how he/she would oversee the investigation.