Once Trump has installed loyalists in crucial posts, his first priority—an urgent one for a man facing 91 felony charges in four jurisdictions—would be to save himself from conviction and imprisonment.
Of the four indictments against him, two are federal: the Florida case, with charges of unlawful retention of classified documents and obstruction of justice, and the Washington case, which charges Trump with unlawful efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Those will be the easiest for him to dispose of.
To begin with, there is little to stop Trump from firing Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing both of the federal investigations. Justice Department regulations confer a measure of protection on a special counsel against arbitrary dismissal, but he may be removed for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause.” That last clause is a catchall that Trump could readily invoke.
The regulations state that a special counsel may be fired “only by the personal action of the Attorney General,” but that would not stop Trump either. In the unlikely event that his handpicked attorney general were reluctant, he could fire the attorney general and keep on firing successors until he found one to do his bidding, as Richard Nixon did to get rid of Archibald Cox. Alternatively, Trump could claim—and probably prevail, if it came to a lawsuit—that the president is not bound by Justice Department regulations and can fire the special counsel himself.
Smith’s departure would still leave Trump’s federal criminal charges intact, but no law would prevent Trump from ordering that they be dropped. He could do so even with a trial in progress, right up to the moment before a jury returned a verdict. No legal expert I talked with expressed any doubt that he could get away with this. [Continue reading…]