Curmudgeon On Health Insurance

Introduction

The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Health Care, is in reality a mixture of Health Insurance and Welfare. The pure insurance portions are the various exchanges, the pure welfare portion is Medicaid Expansion, and the mixtures are the subsidies, which lower the monthly premium cost and “cost sharing”, which lowers the deductible and co-pay. Eighty five percent of 13 M ACA marketplace enrollee receive subsidies while 37% receive the “cost sharing” benefits.

ACA offers four tiers of coverage, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze is designed to cover 60% of medical cost, Silver 70%, Gold 80% and Platinum 90%,

A single person making in excess of $47,500, well below the $66,560 (1st Qtr 2017) median salary of a college graduate, and well above the $36,504 median salary of a high school graduate, will not qualify for any subsidies. The threshold for a family of four is $97,200.

The nationwide average (2017) Bronze plan, for a 30-year-old has a $311 monthly premium ($3,732 yearly) and a $6,092 annual deductible, a Silver plan would be $365/mo. ($4,380/yr.) with a $3,572 deductible. A 60-year-old would have an average Bronze plan premium of $744/mo. ($8,928/yr.), 2.4 time the cost of the 30-year-old. In addition are co-pays for doctor visits and drugs which are approximately 30% each, with a typical cap of $6,500 per year. Thus a maxed out 30-year-old would have out-of-pocket expenses of $16,324. This is 34.3% of the individuals $47,500 income.

The ACA plans also cover drugs, the typical out-of-pocket cost for a 30-day supply of drugs are:

ACADrugs
By way of comparison, 150 M individuals have employer based health care with a typical premium of $440/mo. ($5280/yr.) paid by the employee and $1,075/mo. ($12,900/yr.) paid by the employer. Most have lower deductibles and copays.

An Existing Alternative

How would a program

  • with 250+ insurance carriers, regional and nationwide,
  • that are actuarially sound,
  • has been in existence for 57 years,
  • covers preexisting conditions,
  • has a single premium regardless of age,
  • dental and vision options are available,
  • and is codified in federal law
    • statute is only a few dozen pages long, and only a few paragraphs are devoted to the structure and functioning of the program.
    • Regulations are minimal; only another few dozen pages

sound.

Last year the average of the premiums, of typical nationwide programs, rose only 6%. A median standard nationwide family plan cost $17,451 per year, with the employee paying $363.57 per month and the employer paying $1090.70 per month, with:

  • Doctor and Hospital;
    • co-pays of $20.00 per visit and $200 per hospitalization,
    • deductibles of $350 per individual (or $1050 for all family members)
    • and a maximum out-of-pocket annual cost of $5,000 per individual and $10,000 per family.
  • Prescription Drugs co-pays, with catastrophic limits of $1,500 per individual, $3,000 per family.
    • Network retail pharmacy
      • Generic = $8 copay
      • Preferred Brand Name = 30% of plan allowance, $70 maximum
      • Non-Preferred Brand Names = 40% of plan allowance, $110 maximum
    • Mail order pharmacy (90 day prescriptions)
      • Generic = $15 copay
      • Preferred Brand Name = 30% of plan allowance, $150 maximum
      • Non-Preferred Brand Names = 40% of plan allowance, $275 maximum

This is the Federal Employees Health Benefit program administer by the Office of Personnel Management, covering 9 M individuals, employees and families and retirees and families. Wikipedia tells us:

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program is a system of “managed competition” through which employee health benefits are provided to civilian government employees and annuitants of the United States government.

The FEHB program allows some insurance companies, employee associations, and labor unions to market health insurance plans to governmental employees. The program is administered by the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The FEHB program relies on consumer choices among competing private plans to determine costs, premiums, benefits, and service. This model is in sharp contrast to that used by original Medicare. In Medicare, premiums, benefits, and payment rates are all centrally determined by law or regulation (there is no bargaining and no reliance on volume discounts in original Medicare; these parameters are set by fiat). Some have criticized the FEHB model because neither the monopsony power nor purchasing power of the federal government is utilized to control costs. This controversy is similar to that which surrounded legislation for the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage passed during the George W. Bush administration. Over time, however, the FEHB program has outperformed original Medicare not only in cost control, but also in benefit improvement, enrollee service, fraud prevention, and avoidance of “pork barrel” spending and earmarks. (Medicare Part D has also controlled costs far better than originally forecast through a competitive, consumer-driven system of plan choices similar to and modeled after the FEHB program.)

In the FEHB program the federal government sets minimal standards that, if met by an insurance company, allows it to participate in the program. The result is numerous competing insurance plans that are available to federal employees. Local plans have ready access to participation in the program, but the underlying statute prohibits entry of new national plans.

The FEHB program has often been proposed as a model for national health insurance and sometimes as a program that could directly enroll the uninsured. These proposals began within its first decade[11] and have continued ever since. Notable economist Alain Enthoven explicitly built a proposal for a system of “managed competition” as a national health reform decade ago, and has continued promoting the idea ever since. A version of this proposal was recently adopted by the Netherlands. In the 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry proposed opening enrollment in this plan to all Americans. In enacting the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, the Congress explicitly modeled the reformed Medicare Advantage program and the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program after the FEHB program. One of the prominent proposals for health reform in the United States, the proposed bipartisan Wyden-Bennett Act is largely modeled after the FEHB program.

Providing Health Insurance to all Americans

Having established that there is a viable free market insurance model, lets address the insurance market segments:

  1.  Government provided coverage for those who are drawing Social Security, Medicare; the program need to be reformed to be actuarially sound, with it unfunded liabilities eradicated over a 15 – 20 year period. This will require tax, premium and benefit adjustments. It should be expanded to address dental and vision care.
  2. Government provided coverage for those not covered by Medicare who fall below a TBD income threshold (? x the poverty level). This could use the FEHB model or the Medicaid model. It should be funded via a health care surtax to the existing income tax system, applied proportionally to the in-place tax brackets, or a national sales tax system. IMHO the sales tax system is the most appropriate approach to approach a “fair share” contribution by all Americans and “transparency” of cost.There could be a transition income range where vouchers for insurance premium assistance would be available. The program would be required to operate on a balance budget, tax revenue = operating cost plus reserves.
  3. Government provided coverage for “wards and employees” of governments, those who are wards of local and federal government, such as prisoners, children in foster care, … and those employed by local and federal government agencies. This would also include; FEHB, military services, VA and BIA programs. Funding is part of the operating cost of the parent government organization.
  4. Employer (non-government) provided coverage, mandatory for employers of more than TBD employees. Employer based long term care insurance should be addressed, probably on a voluntary basis, but a tax benefited program, i.e. paid with pretax dollars by individual and deductible by employer.
  5. Individual market, based on the FEHB model and existing insurance programs, for those not covered by employee plans. Affinity groups could create plans such a trade union programs, national associations, such as National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU), … . Health insurance, including dental and vision, should be paid with pre-tax dollars. Long term care insurance, not provided via employer should be tax advantaged to the individual.
  6. There is also a medical liability insurance market.
  7. The final program, that I am aware of is Workers Compensation insurance, which includes both medical coverage and disability coverage. The program should be reformed to provide coverage by the patients established providers.

Where Would We Be Today

If over the last seven years the Republican Party and their Think Tanks has crafted model bills to:

  1. Establish a FEBH modeled Individual Insurance Marketplace
    1. with actuarial estimates of cost if the 10+ million ACA Marketplace subscribers were folded into the existing FEHB program.
  2. Expand and fully fund Medicaid Expansion
  3. Create a Individual Insurance Assistance Program to subsidize those transitioning from Medicaid to the Individual Insurance Marketplace and fully funded the program.
  4. Made Medicare actuarially  sound and eliminate the unfunded liabilities over a 15 – 20 year period.

 

 

 

 

Stopping the Partisan Gridlock

If the American electorate wants to stop the partisan gridlock, here is my roadmap, using the Fire-um-All approach.

The Democratic and Republican electorate must primary and defeat the current Congressional Leadership:

Democratic Leadership

Senate

  1. Charles E. Schumer, New York, 2022
  2. Dick Durbin, Illinois, 2020
  3. Patty Murray, Washington, 2022
  4. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, 2018
  5. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, 2018
  6. Mark Warner, Virginia, 2020

House

  1. Nancy Pelosi, California, 2018
  2. Steny Hoyer, Maryland, 2018
  3. James Clyburn, So. Carolina, 2018
  4. Joseph Crowley, New York, 2018

Republican Leadership

Senate

  1. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, 2020
  2. John Cornyn, Texas, 2020
  3. John Thune, So. Dakota, 2022
  4. Roy Blunt, Missouri, 2022

House

  1. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin, 2018
  2. Kevin McCarthy,  2020
  3. Steve Scalise, Louisiana, 2018
  4. Cathy Rogers, Washington , 2020

 

My Speculation on USS Fitzgerald – ACX Crystal Collision

USS Fitzgerald

Fitzdwg

FitzphotoFitzchar

ACX Crystal

Crystalph

Crystalchar

Crystal Vessel Track

The Crystal’s track from an Automatic Identification System (AIS).

CrystalTrack
Credit Freerepublic.com

 

This plot appears to show the Crystal making a 90° port turn into the collision at 17:29 UTC (02:29 LT)

A finer scale time lapse animation of the ACX Crystal’s track is available on YouTube.   From this we get this tract, I have added approximate course of Fitzgerald and event times from the AIS time tags.  There is a discrepancy in the times, if I read the Marine Traffic time stamps correctly, and it is UTC, there is a one hour difference, that need to be resolved.  The T-4 time tag is approximate position of Crystal at 17:30 according to Marine traffic’s time stamp.

MarineTraf

 

If the AIS data is correct, and the collision occurred at T-3,  the ACX Crystal was on a parallel reciprocal course from the Fitzgerald when it did a 180° turn to port at T-1 (17:45 ?),  Then at T-2 (18:28 ? ) it did a 90° turn to port before colliding with the Fitzgerald at T-3 (18:35 ?).  The reported time were:

Time1
T-1   17:45 UTC ?

 

Time2
T-2   18:28 UTC ?

My T-3 is about the time of the collision, based on the vessel track, not the reported time of the collision.

Note: I find it strange that the mainstream news media hasn’t purchased a copy of the Marine Traffic data and presented an analysis similar to this.

Time3
T-3   18:35 UTC ?

From AIS reporting it appears the normal cruise speed of the ACX Crystal is 20 kts.  I will assume, based on the “30 knot Navy” that the Fitzgerald was like doing 30 knots or more, overtaking the Crystal.

Alternate Scenario

If the collision occurred at T-4 then the Fitzgerald track would have had to been 90° to the Crystal track, heading northerly.  The Crystal’s post collision track would have been loitering in the area.

Questions

The erratic track of the ACX Crystal prior to the collision (T-3 or T-4)  certainly raise the possibility of some form of mechanical failure.

Likewise the 90° turn to port just prior to the collision (T-3)  raises the possibility of an intentional ramming.

I will leave it to those more knowledgeable to comment on the lane separation distance, T-3 scenario.

June 20 Update

Another AIS video, annotated with vessel speed; https://youtu.be/m1b58yelh_c

Just to add a little more fog to the narrative, the time of the collision is now in question, according to Daily Mail article.

 

 

Alexandria Shooting – Facts, Myths, Conjecture and Speculation.

The Shooting

Many news outlets are labeling this an assassination, which is the targeted killing of an individual.  In my humble opinion there is no evidence to support this.  This should be labeled a mass shooting, likely politically motivate.

The Shooter

James Thomas Hodgkinson, has been profiled by his hometown newspaper:

1951

James Thomas Hodgkinson was born Dec. 12 to Deloris and James J. Hodgkinson. He was one of three children. The younger Hodgkinson sometimes went by “Tom” or his middle name.

1965

Hodgkinson joins Belleville West High School’s wrestling and track teams as a freshman, according to his school yearbook. In his sophomore and junior years, yearbooks list him as a member of the varsity wrestling team at Belleville West.

Hodgkinson attended Belleville West with Belleville native Tom Calhoun, the PA voice for the Gateway Grizzlies and the St. Louis Blues. Calhoun remembered Hodgkinson as “Tommy” and they were in the same kindergarten class at Henry Raab Elementary School. They were both interested in sports in high school and played pick-up baseball games together as teens.

Belleville resident Dale Walsh grew up with Hodgkinson, attending Belleville West High with him. He said Hodgkinson was “a fun-loving guy” who was passionate about his views and “never backed down” on his convictions, but Walsh never knew his friend to be an extremist.

1968

He graduated from Belleville West High School. No activities or clubs were listed in Hodgkinson’s senior yearbook.

1969

He studied aviation at Belleville Area College, which later became Southwestern Illinois College.

1971

In the fall, he transferred to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then only six years open in its current location. Hodgkinson took two classes in one term, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga, but did not complete a degree.

1976

Hodgkinson opened JTH Construction, which he operated for nearly 20 years, according to his Facebook page, which was later taken down.

1992

Hodgkinson was arrested Dec. 31 for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and fleeing police.

1993

Hodgkinson has DUI, resisting arrest and fleeing charges that were dismissed after court supervision.

1994

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service.

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service that he listed as closed in 2016.

1996

The Hodgkinson’s foster daughter, Wanda “Ashley” Stock, killed herself at the age of 17 by dousing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire inside her car on a rural road south of Belleville. The Hodgkinsons spoke to the News-Democrat at the time, saying they did not know what triggered a “very practical, level-headed girl” to kill herself. Later they discovered there had been a previous suicide attempt before Ashley came to live with them, and that hours before she completed her suicide, her boyfriend had broken up with her.

2002

In December, the Hodgkinsons assumed legal guardianship for their 12-year-old great-niece, Cathy Lynn Putnam. Cathy’s biological parents’ rights had been revoked, and she had been in foster care or with the Hodgkinsons since she was 4 years old. Her name was eventually changed to Cathy Hodgkinson.

2006

April 1: Cathy refused to leave a friend’s house. Hodgkinson grabbed Cathy by her hair and pulled her to the floor. Cathy and her female friend try to leave in a car, but Hodgkinson opened the car door, cut the ignition and used a pocketknife to cut the seat belt. When Cathy’s friend threatened to call police, he punched her in the face. When the boyfriend of Cathy’s friend went to Hodgkinson’s house to talk about the attack, Hodgkinson aimed a 12-gauge shotgun at his face. The boyfriend fled and Hodgkinson fired a shot behind him.

Hodgkinson had two battery charges and an aiding damage to a vehicle charge later dismissed.

July 7: Cathy was returned to state custody.

Dec. 26: In a court document, the Hodgkinsons wrote: “Since then His Honor has seen fit to award guardianship of Cathy to our next-door neighbors, which is a quite stressful and uncomfortable situation for our family.”

2008

Hodgkinson began writing letters to the editor to the Belleville News-Democrat. In them, he often railed against Republicans and tax policies, and at least once advocated for legalizing marijuana. His last letter to the editor was dated Sept. 12, 2012. He sent in nearly 30 letters to the editor between 2008 and 2012.

2009

Hodgkinson was charged by Belleville with failing to obtain an electrical contractor license or electrical permit before performing work, but it was dismissed.

2012

Hodgkinson protests low taxes for the rich outside the Belleville post office. Hodgkinson said he was part of a “99%” team drawing attention to the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired.


I KNEW HE WAS A DEMOCRAT, A PRETTY HARDCORE ONE. I KNOW HE WASN’T HAPPY WHEN TRUMP GOT ELECTED, BUT HE SEEMED LIKE A NICE ENOUGH GUY. … HE WAS A DEMOCRAT AND I WAS A REPUBLICAN, SO WE DIDN’T HAVE TOO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.  Neighbor Aaron Meurer


2017

March 24: A neighbor called deputies when he heard 50 shots fired in some pine trees near Hodgkinson’s home. Neighbors complained and called the St. Clair County Sheriff at 3 p.m. He had a valid Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card at the time and was firing a hunting rifle on his own property in unincorporated St. Clair County, so sheriff’s deputies did not file any charges and reminded him to shoot responsibly. As no illegal activity had taken place, no charges were filed, according to St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren.

Late March, early April: Hodgkinson moves to the Alexandria, Virginia and lives out of a gym bag for several months.

June 14: Hodgkinson allegedly opens fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice. Five were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Scalise was in critical condition Wednesday night after undergoing surgery. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers during the practice session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Law enforcement officials have not said what they believe Hodgkinson’s motive may have been for the shooting.

Hodgkinson’s social media was marked by politics, and he belonged to multiple anti-GOP Facebook groups, including “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “President Bernie Sanders,” “Expose Republican Fraud,” and “Terminate the Republican Party.” Facebook removed his account Wednesday afternoon.

The Guns

From FBI/ATF joint statement update (June 16, 2017)

According to ATF, weapons traces of the 9mm handgun and 7.62mm caliber rifle found at the scene were legally purchased by the shooter with federal licenses. The ATF provided photos of weapons similar in appearance to those used in Wednesday’s shooting.

Stock image of a rifle that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.
Stock image of a 9mm handgun that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Rifle
SKF Rifle, 10 round clip

 

 

Pistol
9 mm Pistol, typically 9 round magazine

The Myths

The rife was an AK-47 Assault rifle, with the implication, in many people mind, that it was an automatic weapon.

The SKF is a 1950 vintage soviet design that predates the AK-47.  It is a clip fed and reloading is more complex than a magazine fed weapon.  It is semi-automatic.

 

Clip
Inserting a new clip into a SKF rifle.

In interviews, Senator Ran Paul and others, intimated that there was a pause while the shooter reloaded.  A SFK expert who listened to a tape of the shooting reported that he heard 10 7.62 mm rounds (rifle) and 50+ 9mm rounds (pistol), noting there is no way to tell where in the event the recording started.

 “From the more than five-minute video, I heard only 10 7.62 rifle shots. That’s the legal capacity for that firearm. I’m going to assume that his rifle is not modified but it’s hard to know when the videographer started taping.

The first five rifle rounds were not well-placed shots because they were too fast. He was shooting indiscriminately. But the second set of five are the ones I’d be worried about. He was acquiring targets and his shooting was more methodical because he was giving himself more time.

There were 56-57 pistol shots in all, and that includes after the police got there.”

The expertise of the shooter must also be questioned, if we assume two SFK clips (20 rounds) and four Pistol magazines (36 round) he hit 4 individuals, one twice, 7% accuracy, and only two shots were in center mass of body.  Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots, within six seconds, at twice the range, at a moving target, using a bolt action rifle, and had two hits by comparison.

Conjecture

There are frequent reports that the shooter was subjected to a Federal Firearms Background Check , this will be true if the weapons were purchased post 1998, when the checks were begun, before that no checks were required.

The fact that he had an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) in 2017 indicates that he had applied for it subsequent to 2007, unless it was a renewal, which would mean that he could have acquired it as early as 1967, when the law was enacted.

Speculation

Based on the infamous “unnamed sources” it is being reported that the shooter “had a (handwritten) list of at least six GOP lawmakers’ names at the time of the shooting.”  And “all of the congressmen are associated with the conservative House Freedom Caucus.”  It is not reported where the list existed, on his person, in his van, in his gym bag, …, but some outlets imply on his person by use of “carried or with”.  The reporting is that two of the named individuals were on the practice field at the time of the shooting.  As with most speculative reports it concludes with “law enforcement officials are cautioning against drawing conclusions about the list or the suspect’s motivations for having it”  The classic we will tell you something then tell you not to believe it.  Far from the classic factual reporting mantra of who, what, when, where and why.

The only injured congressional member is House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, who is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

The Park

 

Scene
The Park, from the area of 3rd base dugout to 2nd base is 130 ft.

 

 

Mueller Should Recuse Himself From Obstruction of Justice Inquiry

For the same reason Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russian Investigation, 28 CFR 45.2, Robert Mueller needs to recuse himself from the Obstruction of Justice investigation.

28 CFR 45.2 Disqualification arising from personal or political relationship.

(a) Unless authorized under paragraph (b) of this section, no employee [including Special Counsel] shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal  or political relationship with:

(1) Any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution; [e.g. James Comey] or

(2) Any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected [e.g. James Comey] by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.

(b) An employee assigned to or otherwise participating in a criminal investigation or prosecution who believes that his participation may be prohibited by paragraph (a) of this section shall report the matter and all attendant facts and circumstances to his supervisor at the level of section chief or the equivalent or higher. If the supervisor determines that a personal or political relationship exists between the employee and a person or organization described in paragraph (a) of this section, he shall relieve the employee from participation unless he determines further, in writing, after full consideration of all the facts and circumstances, that:

(1) The relationship will not have the effect of rendering the employee’s service less than fully impartial and professional; and

(2) The employee’s participation would not create an appearance of a conflict of interest likely to affect the public perception of the integrity of the investigation or prosecution.

(c) For the purposes of this section:

(1) ….

(2)Personal relationship means a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.  An employee is presumed to have a personal relationship with his father, mother, brother, sister, child and spouse. Whether relationships (including friendships) of an employee to other persons or organizations are “personal” must be judged on an individual basis with due regard given to the subjective opinion of the employee.

Firstly in my humble opinion Mr. Mueller should not have been considered for the Special Counsel based on:

  1. The law firm in which he is a partner represents potential subject/witnesses of the investigation; Paul Manafort, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
    1. Other Wilmer Hale Partners:
      1. Thomas Mueller, relative?
      2. Joseph J. Mueller, relative?
  2. He has resigned his partnership, but has he divested his ownership (financial interest) position?
  3. He interviewed, with President Trump, for the directorship of the FBI, the day before his appointment as Special Counsel, presumably knowing that his appointment as Special Counsel was imminent.

DOJ ethics officials have cleared his prior employment at WilmerHale, as not being a conflict.

Again, in my humble opinion, he should recuse himself from the obstruction of justice (Flynn investigation and Comey firing)

He has a long working and social history (mentorship/friendship) with James Comey, a key figure in the obstruction of justice inquiry.   This certainly brings into play 28 CFR 45.2.b.2 “… an appearance of a conflict of interest likely to affect the public perception of the integrity of the investigation or prosecution.”  If charges of obstruction of justice re: Mike Flynn are brought Mr. Comey has potential legal jeopardy for failing to notify his superiors.   If the obstruction was the firing of Mr. Comey, he is again a central figure in the investigation and a key witness.

Additionally the DOJ official he reports to, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is embroiled in the Comey firing.  As such he should also recuse himself.

June 19th Update

Jared Kushner’s attorney at Wilmer Hale is effectively recusing herself, does she perceive an ethical issue with the DC Bar :

“After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel,”

Shouldn’t Mueller have a reciprocal ethics issue?

 

From Opinion to Rumor to Fact

The Opinion

The opinion is that of Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, reportedly a friend of President Trump’s.   Mr. Ruddy in an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS’ NewsHour opined “”I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel, I think he’s weighing that option.”  Mr. Ruddy made it very clear that his opinion was based on Jay Sekulow’s  interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week.  In Mr. Sekulow’s interview, in response to Stephanopoulos’ question, Mr. Sekulow said, relative to the President’s constitutional authority, not Trumps intention:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, will the president promise not to interfere, not attempt at any time to order the deputy attorney general to fire Robert Mueller?

SEKULOW: Look, the president of the United States, as we all know, is a unitary executive. But the president is going to seek the advice of his counsel and inside the government as well as outside. And I’m not going to speculate on what he will or will not do.

But right now the role of the president is to govern the United States of America. He’s going to do that. He’s going to leave anything else to the lawyers. But I can’t imagine that that issue is going to arise. But that again is an issue that the president with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.

I mean, George, if there was a basis upon which there was a question raised that raised the kind of issues that are serious, as in the situation with James Comey, the president has authority to take action. Whether he would do it is ultimately a decision the president makes.

I think that’s complete conjecture and speculation. The Constitution, it’s a unitary executive. You know that, you worked for a president.

In my humble opinion Mr. Ruddy’s interpretation of this exchange was total off-the-wall, as Sekulow said “I think that’s complete conjecture and speculation.”

The under reported fact that came out in the Ruddy interview is Mueller’s law firm represents members of the Trump Family and Muller was interviewed, just prior to his appointment, for the position of FBI director.  Looks like a potential conflict of interest to me.

The Rumor

Saba Hamedy, Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak of CNN reported on the Woodruff and other interviews, under the headline “Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy says President considering firing Mueller” citing Ruddy’s interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” and the Woodruff  interview.

They bolster their case with “a person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Tuesday morning that it’s “unlikely” the President will fire Mueller, but conceded that it’s often difficult to predict Trump’s behavior.”

The CNN team does report “White House press secretary Sean Spicer said: “Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the President regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the President or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

They also gave Ruddy’s response to Spicer:

“Spicer issued a bizarre late night press release that a) doesn’t deny my claim the President is considering firing Mueller and b) says I didn’t speak to the President about the matter — when I never claimed to have done so. Memo to Sean: focus your efforts on exposing the flim-flam Russian allegations against POTUS and highlighting his remarkable achievements! Don’t waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies.”

They also cited Newt Gingrich’s comment that Congress should “abolish the independent counsel.” [sic – Muller is Special Counsel, Congress abolished the Independent Counsel on June 30, 1999 when it was allowed to sunset].

The Fact

New York Magazine’s  Jonathan Chait, reported under the headline “Trump Is Crazy Enough to Fire the Special Prosecutor“:

Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax (a right-wing media organ) and a close confidante of President Trump — indeed, Ruddy visited the White House on Monday — tells Judy Woodruff that Trump is considering firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The prospect has struck many people as the kind of outlandish move Trump might rant about in private, but would hesitate to actually do. But the administration has declined to repudiate the trial balloon. (Sarah Sanders says only that Ruddy “speaks for himself,” a non-response.)

Trump will probably not fire Mueller right away. But the odds that he will fire him eventually are quite strong, perhaps 50-50 or higher.

Aside – I want to play poker with Mr. Chait, who believes 50:50 odds are quite strong.

Debunked

Just Security’s Marty Lederman lays out the reasons Trump can’t fire Mueller:

There are two reasons why the President himself cannot remove Mueller.  First, the statutory power to appoint a Special Counsel is vested in the Attorney General, and the longstanding general rule is that unless Congress specifies otherwise, “the power of removal [is] incident to the power of appointment.”  Thus “the President has certainly no power to remove” officers appointed by a department head (absent statutory authorization for such presidential removal, which is not present here); such removal, instead, can be exercised only by the department head who appointed the officer–here, the (Acting) Attorney General.   Ex parte Hennen, 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 230, 259-60 (1839); accord PCAOB v. FEF, 561 U.S. 477, 493 (2010).  This explains why Richard Nixon did not try to personally remove Archibald Cox (or, for that matter, Leon Jaworski).

Second, the removal provision of the regulation pursuant to which the Acting AG appointed Mueller, 28 CFR 600.7(d), provides that a Special Counsel appointed from outside the Department of Justice (as Mueller was) “may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the Attorney General.”  And, as explained below, that limitation is binding on the Executive branch (including the President) as long as the regulation is on the books.

 

Comey-Mueller the unanswered questions.

Sunday, Jan 22nd – Green Room Dinner/Memo created

Tuesday, May 9th – Comey Fired, attributed to Asst. AG letter

At some point DOJ begins search for Special Counsel, when did it start and
when was offer made to Mueller.

Thursday, May 11th – NY Times reports on some information in Comey memos
— Trump admits Comey fired because of Russian Investigation

8:26 AM Friday, May 12th – Trump’s Tweet re: tapes

Middle of night Monday, May 15th – Comey awoke and devised plan to release memo “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

The questions no Senator asked:
“Were you aware Robert Mueller had been approached to be Special Counsel?”
Were you aware of the NY Times leak of information from your memo?
Are you aware of which of your confidants leaked to NY Times?
Did you approve of the NY Times leak?

Tuesday, May 16th — Mueller interviews for FBI director position.

Did Come discuss this with Mueller?

Wednesday, May 17th – Mueller appointed Special Counsel

Presumably he was first approached no later than Monday, May 15th, to allow him
time to consider, notify Stanford and Wilmer-Hale and accept. More likely sometime in the week of May 8th – 12th.