In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Cory Booker articulated an argument I’ve read floating around all day; and it has legs: The Committee should not consider his nominee for the high court until the criminal investigation of which he is the subject, is concluded. That, to make sure special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is not undermined. That investigation has so far resulted in 23 people and companies charged with crimes, 76 total criminal charges, 5 guilty pleas and one person sentenced. If it ends up in the Supreme Court, a possibility, it represents a conflict of interest, Booker says. That particularly, given that Trump as president has shown a pattern of litmus tests, and demanding loyalty – to himself, over responsibility to the country. What if that leaves the Senate supporting a process where the President’s choice may be shaded by his need to save his own neck? How Booker put it:
“And so, if we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a President with this ongoing investigation happening who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation.”
Booker also reiterated his position that the Senate should abide by the McConnell standard set in 2016 and wait for the American people to have their say in the November elections before bringing a nominee before the Senate. Sauce for the gander.
According to the Booker office, the following issues related to Mueller’s investigation could potentially end up being considered by the Supreme Court:
- Can a president pardon himself?
- Can a sitting president be criminally indicted?
- Can a president end a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice into the president’s own conduct?
- Can the president act to fire a special counsel?
- Can the president interfere in the Mueller investigation by replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with someone who passes his “loyalty test”?
A rushed transcript is below.
“At the time this was happening, I was new to the Senate and was frankly stunned that we would take away the Constitutional powers of a President of the United States with about a year left in their office as if we were to say that a President only has three years of that Constitutional power. We stripped it away and did not allow him to appoint someone. That was very stunning for me as a new Senator to this body that that would happen and I felt it was wrong at the time, but it was clearly a standard that was defended. We heard the language not only of Senator McConnell but we heard it of Colleagues that set the standard and if that’s the standard to abide by here we are now less months away from an election. And so …it was either a new standard being set or it was a constitutionally inappropriate or an offense to the Constitution – a naked power grab that was unconstitutional and [a] cynical assault, it was one of those two things and…if it was a standard we should abide by that standard.
“I do want to point out one thing that hasn’t been mentioned by my colleagues that we should all know and be aware of, which is to me what I think is clearly a potential conflict of interest, one that has a profound reach. The President of the U.S., right now, is a subject of an ongoing criminal investigation – an investigation that every member of this Committee knows could end up before the Supreme Court.
“We’ve seen numerous people that are close to the President, numerous people that were on the President’s campaign who have plead guilty, who have clearly been under investigation and this all could end up in front of the Supreme Court…and we have a President who has in the past has seemed to be asking people for loyalty tests who has seem to have litmus tests in regard to this investigation.
“And so If we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a President with this ongoing investigation happening who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation. I think it’s questionable should we be considering a nominee from a President who has a history of demanding these loyalty tests and we could be responsible for participating in something that could undermine that investigation.
“I do not believe this Committee should or can in good conscience consider a nominee put forward by this President until that investigation is concluded. So not only do I believe we should abide by the rule set forward by McConnell but I think we should look at the larger moment we’re in in American history, the conflict of interest that’s clearly present with this President and we should delay this until the Mueller investigation is concluded.”