Laurence Tribe on the Firing of Jeff Sessions

The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions raises serious constitutional questions, and could risk undermining the Mueller investigation. With Democrats in the House readying to launch investigations, Christiane speaks with Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe about what could amount to a constitutional crisis.

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LAURENCE TRIBE: It’s ironic to hear this president talk about conflict of interest. The biggest conflict of all arises with his assertion that he is the final judge of whether there was conspiracy with Russia, whether there was obstruction of justice, when he keeps saying it’s all a hoax and a witch hunt, despite all of the indictments, the guilty pleas and the convictions, he’s acting as though he is judge and jury. He is trying to become not just commander-in-chief of the military, but commander-in-chief of all he surveys, commander-in-chief of the United States of America. That’s an authoritarian position. And if he gets away with it, in hindsight, that will have been not only a crisis but a catastrophe. And so, the question is, will he get away with it, given there are millions of people who seem to like his authoritarian style, who have no trouble with his racism, with his xenophobia, with the cruelty of what he says and what he does. If he gets away with it and if the relatively spineless Republicans in the Senate who will still control the Senate become and continue to be enablers rather than checking him, then what we have is only the House of Representatives as a check. And it may need to rely on the Federal Judiciary to enforce its subpoenas. But the Federal Judiciary is being gradually Trumpified to the point where the U.S. Supreme Court is now composed of a 5-4 split in which the most recent appointment was that of someone hand-picked by the president because of his expressed views about the sweep of presidential power. So, we are poised to see whether our system will hold. This is kind of a stress test for the constitutional system.

AMANPOUR: Well, that’s obviously leads to the next urgent question, what will and how will it hold? You know, you just talked about the difference between the Senate and the current makeup of the House now and of course, you remember that the Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell refused to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate that would have protected the special prosecutor, the special investigation.

TRIBE: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: That’s still the case. How does one prevent — if the president was inclined, how does one protect the special prosecutor? And can the House, with its subpoena power and other power now and its chairmanship of all of these relevant committees, can it be a firewall against that?

TRIBE: I think the House can be a very effective though not impermeable firewall.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso about the migrant caravan. Alicia Menendez speaks with activist Brittany Packnett.