WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Judiciary Committee meeting earlier today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) warned of the President’s conflict of interest as it relates to picking a new Supreme Court justice, while he is a subject of a criminal investigation that could eventually come before the highest court.
“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, “ Booker said. “And we have a President who has in the past, has seemed to be asking people for loyalty tests, who has seemed 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,” Booker added.
“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.”
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.
In April 2018, the Washington Post reported that “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target.” According to the United States Attorney’s Manual, which governs criminal practice at the Department of Justice, a “target” of an investigation is “a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” A “subject” of an investigation is “a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation” – just as President Trump’s conduct is within the scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation, as reported by the Washington Post.
There are a number of issues related to Robert Mueller’s investigation that could end up being considered by the Supreme Court, including such questions as:
· 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”?
The Mueller special counsel investigation has resulted in, to date:
· 23 people and companies charged with crimes
· 76 total criminal charges
· 5 guilty pleas
· 1 person sentenced
Full video of Senator Booker’s remarks can be found here.
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.”