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FOCUS | 'He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly': Mueller Nears Trump Endgame
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=48359"><span class="small">David Taylor, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Sunday, 25 November 2018 11:46

Taylor writes: "Donald Trump only has himself to blame for Robert Mueller's return to public life."

Robert Mueller. (photo: Brooks Craft LLC/Getty Images/Corbis)
Robert Mueller. (photo: Brooks Craft LLC/Getty Images/Corbis)

'He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly': Mueller Nears Trump Endgame

By David Taylor, Guardian UK

25 November 18

A new urgency surrounds the Russia investigation, with Donald Trump Jr and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone in legal peril

onald Trump only has himself to blame for Robert Mueller’s return to public life. The former FBI director, now 74, was asked to come out of retirement after Trump fired James Comey,on 9 May 2017.

In March that year, on Capitol Hill, Comey revealed publicly that in July 2016 the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the US election and possible Trump campaign collusion. During the election, Comey spoke openly about the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The Trump-Russia inquiry was kept secret.

Eight days after Comey was fired, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Mueller as special counsel. Eighteen months later, the inquiry has led to indictments against 32 individuals and three Russian entities on charges ranging from computer hacking to obstruction of justice.

Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn both pleaded guilty to criminal charges and pledged to cooperate. Donald Trump Jr and longtime Trump aide Roger Stone are in legal peril.

Trump Jr orchestrated the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with a group of Russians after being promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Stone has been under scrutiny over whether he joined the Russian conspiracy.

Trump, who would himself be in legal trouble if he knew of any conspiracy or obstructed justice, has consistently called the Mueller investigation a hoax and turned “NO COLLUSION!” into a catchphrase.

‘He has moved incredibly quickly’

The investigation, which cost more than $16.6m in its first 11 months, can be broken down into four distinct parts which have all led to indictments:

  • Manafort and his business connections to Russia following years of work in support of the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
  • Russian use of fake social media accounts to influence the 2016 election.
  • Russian hacking of the Democratic party and the Clinton aide John Podesta – and the subsequent leak of thousands of emails by WikiLeaks.
  • Trump campaign connections to Russia – including the Trump Tower meeting and the adviser George Papadopoulos’s involvement with a professor who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton including “thousands of emails”.

Anne Milgram, a law professor at New York University and a former prosecutor and attorney general of New Jersey, said Mueller and his 17 lawyers had done “a terrific job”.

“Months have gone by – people think it’s a long time – it is not in criminal justice,” she said. “He has moved incredibly quickly, got a lot of cooperation agreements, charges, done an extraordinary job of running down Russian hacking of the election.”

Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor for the northern district of California, said: “Complex charges against nearly three dozen people [and] organizations in less than two years is unheard of. Federal investigations may go on for three or four years before charges are brought against a few defendants. Also despite nearly daily false attacks from the president and his allies, the entire team has just kept its head down and done their work.”

One indictment charging three Russian companies and 13 Russians goes into amazing detail about the companies, which had budgets of more than $1.2m a month and hundreds of staff creating fake content aimed at stirring up American voters.

Another indictment charges 12 members of the Russian military with hacking the Democrats and the Clinton campaign. The individuals are alleged to have created the site DC Leaks and created the Guccifer 2.0 persona, supposed to be a lone Romanian hacker who shared data with WikiLeaks.

“It is really extraordinary, detailed evidence of the way the Russian government hacked the American election,” Milgram said. “What is still outstanding is are any Americans charged in connection with that, will Roger Stone be charged, will Mueller write a report on the president, what about Donald Trump Jr?

“High-level questions remain – how close did this come to the campaign? Were they involved in the coordinated release of the hacked emails of Podesta? What about the president’s efforts to fire Comey to allegedly obstruct justice?”

The grand jury

Little is known about the inner workings of Mueller’s investigation, which has been operating out of an office in south-west Washington, not far from the National Mall.

A grand jury has been convened, meeting at the DC federal court on Pennsylvania Avenue, midway between the White House and Capitol Hill. People appear either voluntarily or under subpoena and are questioned without their lawyer. The jury can weigh evidence and say whether charges should be brought.

Rob Goldstone, a British PR man for the Russian Agalarov family, fixed up the Trump Tower meeting with a promise of Russian dirt on Clinton.

“If it’s what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr wrote, before bringing in his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort. He had been promised “very high-level and sensitive information” as part of Russian support for Trump.

Goldstone met Mueller’s team voluntarily. He told the Guardian he was taken in an unmarked car for six or seven hours of interviews in February this year.

“It was a basic room,” he said, “a long table. I sat on one side and they sat on the other side with my lawyers sat next to me. There was something very methodical and logical about the approach to questions.

“There were about six people in total, a couple of FBI people and a couple of people from, I suppose, the Mueller team. Over the course of the day they asked me a series of questions about my email, the Trump Tower meeting and about my relationship with my clients, the Agalarovs.

“A lot of friends have asked me did you meet Robert Mueller? I’ve said even if he came in to change the lightbulb or adjust the air-conditioning I’d probably be horrified by the idea that he was there, considering I hadn’t heard he had been in anybody else’s. So I was thankful of the fact I didn’t see Bob Mueller.”

On 9 March, Goldstone voluntarily appeared before the grand jury. He said there were 22 or 23 people in tiered seating.

“Similar sort of thing,” he said. “The difference there, you have no lawyers, you’re on your own, so that’s pretty terrifying. Terrifying even if you know and believe you have nothing to fear.”

Unanswered questions

All eyes are on Manafort. Due to be sentenced on charges including bank and tax fraud on 8 February, he is cooperating.

Mueller’s team asked for a delay in the sentencing of Rick Gates, Manafort’s former partner and a key witness against him. Earlier this month they also asked for a delay before updating a judge about Manafort’s cooperation. On Monday, they will submit a report.

Observers assume that means an indictment is imminent, against someone. If he is not cooperating fully, Manafort could be sentenced more harshly.

Milgram said: “Now the question you and I can’t answer is what does Paul Manafort have … is he cooperating against the president, is he cooperating against Donald Jr – and only Mueller knows that right now.”

Milgram suspects Mueller was aware the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was likely to be removed after the midterm elections. The acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, is under pressure to keep his hands off the investigation.

“I suspect there are a lot of cases already put into the grand jury, some of those could have been voted out and put under seal,” Milgram said. “I think Mueller will have done as much work as possible and have gotten as far as he can prior to the midterms, understanding there was a risk to the integrity of the investigation.”

She thought the investigation might have about six months left, although if Trump refuses a face-to-face meeting, Mueller could seek a subpoena to put him before the grand jury. That could be fought all the way to the supreme court.

There is a precedent, US v Nixon, when the justices ruled that the president must deliver subpoenaed materials to a district court. Sixteen days later, Nixon resigned.

If Mueller decides not to have that fight, he could write a report saying he believed the president obstructed justice. If he does not reach that conclusion, the Democratic-led House could issue its own subpoenas.

“It is a chess match,” said Milgram. “We’ll have to see how it plays out in the next year.”

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Last Updated on Sunday, 25 November 2018 12:49


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+21 # JCM 2018-11-25 15:09
Mueller's investigation makes money. "The investigation, which cost more than $16.6m in its first 11 months," FYI: "Prosecutors said the Manafort’s own deal, which will require him to forfeit an estimated $46 million in asset."
+7 # Farafalla 2018-11-25 17:53
So the purpose of the Mueller investigation is to make money? That’s rich. The only one making outrageous money out of his job is Donald Trump. And you get 10 thumbs up? WTF.
0 # JCM 2018-11-28 22:20
"The investigation, which cost more than $16.6m in its first 11 months".
Comment was to show that the investigation didn't ultimately cost any money but you found a way to twist it. And you got thumbs up? WTH
+9 # Thomas Martin 2018-11-25 18:46
Yes, but I believe getting at the truth will be priceless.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-26 08:45
"asset forfeiture" is just another name for theft. The police practice this sort of theft at levels that make civilian theft really seem "petty."
+7 # Texas Aggie 2018-11-26 21:59
Asset forfeiture after a criminal conviction is not theft by any reasonable definition, especially if the assets forfeited were gained by illegal means.

That is a whole lot different than the cops stealing someone's car just because they were driving while black in a white neighborhood. Trying to equate the two is an exercise in false equivalency.
+4 # isafakir 2018-11-25 16:12
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:

There's good reason to suspect that some like Mifsud have been murdered in a CIA - MI6 covert operation.

Others like Steele and Halper have simply disappeared.

what good reasons: name one.
steele is alive and well

there is a good deal less than zero evidence that mueller has ever acted with anything less then the highest possible ethics: that's so baseless an accusation as literally to be laughable.

exactly what "connections' with clinton?

can anyone state one fact to support any one of these bizarre absurd insane character assassinations

russian troll farm fresh produce delivered straight from the fields to your doorstep

detailed precise indictments, confessions and convictions are not stage show - these high fliers got shot down and are now singing away
+11 # isafakir 2018-11-25 17:00
nothing is more absurd than the accusation that mr mueller has ever in any way whatsoever benncorrupt in any way.

he was chosen because he was republican by a republican who in turn was appointed by republicans and he was the FBI director under GW Bush.

he has close connections with HRC like my dog Harry does

BTW the uranium delivered to Russia by the FBI director Mueller was a couple of grams of uranium that had been stolen from Russia for forensic study. Secretary Clinton had less than zero to do with law enforcement and it was a law enforcement matter.

Ever accusation made against Mueller so far has been bogus, fake: unsubstantiated because they are without substance :-)
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-26 10:18
isa -- I'll name a few but really you need to do your own research.

1. Mueller oversaw the FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation in the years 2006 to 07 (not sure of exact dates now). It was much like Comey's investigation of Hillary's emails -- lots of very serious wrong doing (money laundering, bribe taking, failure to report, improper expenditures, etc.) but Mueller pronounce there was no reason for anyu punitive measures.

2. Oddly, Mueller as FBI hear granted Jeffrey Epstein immunity from prosecution because he became an FBI informant. Why give a convicted and known pedophile a free pass on further prosecution. My guess is that Bill Clinton requested protection from Mueller for his friend, Epstein.

3. Mueller was personally involved in the Uranium One deal which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes. Literally, it was a few grams, but what about the FBI cover for the deals.

4. Comey and Mueller have worked together to make huge profits for themselves. This is why Mueller was appointed -- his close relations with Comey.

Mueller is Saint Robert right now in the press. But he has not always been. His close relations with John Brennan got him into some of Brennan's scams. Go back to the time when he was FBI Dir. and the story changes a lot.
+3 # Texas Aggie 2018-11-26 22:05
I used to go to school with a guy who thought whatever he read in the Red Star (Mao's state newspaper) was the absolute truth, and he would spew whatever it said ad nauseam without even trying to make it sound plausible.

Your real name wouldn't be Koritz, would it?
+4 # harleysch 2018-11-27 01:39
Mueller, as FBI Director, suppressed the Congressional investigation into the Saudi role in terrorism, including 9/11. Former Dem Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the Congressional 9/11 Commission, accused Mueller of "aggressive deception" for his handling of that investigation.

Also, he failed to conduct proper criminal investigations into bank scams, including drug money laundering (HSBC, on whose board James Comey sat), and criminal behavior in the mortgage-backed securities business, which led to the crash of 2008 -- not one banker, many of whom engaged in much larger financial crimes than Paul Manafort, was sent to prison after 2008.
+1 # chapdrum 2018-11-27 16:32
Thank you harleysch, for bringing this up, especially the former item.
0 # JCM 2018-11-28 22:32
Do you have any references to these accusations?
+2 # johnescher 2018-11-26 06:36
People think it (months) is a long time. Translation: Dumbbells think it is a long time. Because they don't read and don't know Charles Dickens and never heard of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
+1 # chapdrum 2018-11-26 22:15
Like most everyone on RSN, I too want to see Don and his wrecking crew taken down. But Mueller is a staunch and well-connected Republican. He too among his party must decide whether (and how much) to place country over party. His fellow party members in Congress clearly are not concerned about having Don remain in the White House.
+5 # Sir Morien 2018-11-28 01:23
Trump has served his GOPurpose. Watch him atrophy for them, having created political space through chaos for the suspension of Senate rules to straight majorities, for the grandest theft of a tax cut in history, for the rollback of ethical, environmental and consumer-empowe ring policies, and for the long-term institutionaliz ation of Republican narcissism and greed to be upheld by their judicial appointments. Let's NOT omit tax-free Opportunity Zones!

He helped set in motion rationalization s for a coming right-wing security state with only hints of popular democracy: an outcry for martial law as violence against the consequences of these radical right-wing policies manifests, higher than ever taxes to recoup gov't funding for an aging populace & infrastructure, increasing paramilitary terrorism by white extremist groups, and no hope for judicial relief for common citizens seeking principled, equitable outcomes of any appeals for moral (as opposed to economic) resolution of the predictable conflicts.

Old-guard GOP stalwarts caught totally off-guard by the populist blowback that Trump surfed (surprising himself!), have strategized their return and a new rhetoric. They want their marbles back and he's dumb about the game with his ill-informed and off the mark tweets and tariff wars in the offing! War...

Attributing Mueller's pace to legal proficiency above the incompetency of Trump & his minions is mistaken! They are brilliant only in their narcissism, thus easy marks.
+2 # chapdrum 2018-11-28 13:36
Sir Morien: Well-said. I do not have a lot of faith in Mueller, mainly because of his alleged interference with the 911 Commission (per former Senator Bob Graham), insofar as he seemed to be protecting the Saudi gov't in that investigation.