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Tracy writes: "Giuliani appears to be betting that Mueller won’t want to engage in a months- or years-long legal battle over whether a sitting president can be subpoenaed."

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller. (photo: Getty Images)
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller. (photo: Getty Images)

"Bob Is Not Afraid of Anything": Inside the Mueller-Giuliani Chess Match

By Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair

10 September 18

Mueller’s former colleagues say he is always two steps ahead—and will see his job through to the bitter end.

ours after Rudy Giuliani declared Thursday that questions related to obstruction of justice would be a “no go” if Donald Trump were to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller, the president’s lawyer backpedaled. “We’re not closing it off 100 percent,” he told Politico, echoing a similar statement to NBC News. For Giuliani, the flip-flop was typical. Since he joined Trump’s legal team earlier this year, the longtime ally of the president has repeatedly moved the goalposts for an interview before hurriedly recalibrating. As is often the case with Giuliani, it was unclear whether his reversal was part of a grand strategy or another example of the septuagenarian putting his foot in his mouth.

Ultimately, it may not matter. As negotiations between the Trump and Mueller camps drag on, the perceived odds of the encounter actually happening have diminished. “The whole thing has been a charade, and Giuliani is playing for what he ultimately believes may be an impeachment hearing. He is trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. . . . all of this negotiating is pure nonsense,” Glenn Kirschner, a former homicide prosecutor, told me, dismissing the notion that Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s legal team will ever allow the president to go toe-to-toe with Mueller. “I joke that if you ask the president 10 questions, he probably picks up nine false-statement charges after the first question, which is state your name. I am assuming that he can get that one right, but we have all seen the man—he is a showman, and not a particularly good showman.”

Of course, Mueller’s position could also be political theater. Giuliani appears to be betting that Mueller won’t want to engage in a months- or years-long legal battle over whether a sitting president can be subpoenaed. But it is just as likely that Mueller figured an interview was always a long shot, and has been playing along, in part, to establish that their negotiations were always in good faith. “Mueller wants to at least give the appearance that he is giving the president every opportunity to have his side heard,” explained Kirschner, who reported to Mueller as a prosecutor in the late 1990s. “Because if he doesn’t do that, then when the report is issued or the indictment is handed down, what are the president’s lawyers going to say? They are going to say, this didn’t take his side into account.”

As Mueller’s investigation enters its final stretch, speculation surrounding the timing of the special counsel’s next move has taken on the complexity of the ancient Chinese board game Go. Giuliani’s most recent prevarication regarding an interview with Mueller came on the eve of the 60-day mark before midterms—an arbitrary milestone set by Giuliani, in various interviews, as the point after which any major action by Mueller’s office might be seen to be interfering in the midterm elections. Perhaps, some sources have suggested, Giuliani’s remarks on Thursday could be seen as an attempt to get in a last word before things go dark.

People who know Mueller believe he will abide by the rules. “Bob Mueller has a very, very good instinct for politics and the dangers of Washington, D.C., that’s what made him a very good F.B.I. director,” said Robert Grant, a top former F.B.I. agent and a longtime colleague and friend of the special counsel. “I think his greatest strength was his ability to navigate shark-infested waters very well. He is in tune with both Republicans and Democrats,” Grant continued. “I think going into the election, he is going to be very mindful of the potential impact of anything he does on the midterm elections.”

Kirschner concurred. “The one thing I am confident of is that he is going to make sure that he doesn’t do anything on the timing front that would interfere with the midterm elections. . . . I suspect that we are not going to see anything dramatic between now and the midterms,” he told me. But after a pause, he added, “Who knows? These are unprecedented times and circumstances.” The former homicide prosecutor said that while it wouldn’t surprise him if Mueller went radio silent for the next 60 days, he could also see his former boss operating on the fringes of the investigation, possibly bringing indictments against “satellite players” in the probe such as longtime Trump confident and G.O.P. operative Roger Stone and his associates. “I don’t think those kinds of indictments would necessarily impact or interfere with the midterms,” he posited.

Giuliani’s stalling tactics notwithstanding, reality could come crashing down on Trumpworld. “Bob Mueller is notoriously impatient,” noted Grant. “My guess is that he is pressing his lawyers as hard as he can without interfering with the strategy or the tactics of the investigation.” After the midterm elections, many observers expect the Justice Department to bring indictments that implicate more significant targets, potentially including Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, for their roles in a Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton. “I have a feeling one way or another that we are going to see a large conspiracy indictment. Who that might include, that is hard to say,” Kirschner said. (Stone, Trump Jr., and Kushner have all denied any wrongdoing.)

The outcome of the midterms will likely be fateful for Trump. If Democrats retake the House, they are expected to open multiple investigations into the president, his businesses, and his campaign, many of which have been thwarted by the current Republican majority. They are also almost certain to initiate impeachment proceedings once Mueller’s report is concluded.

The special counsel, for his part, has given no indication that he is shying away from the political battle to come. “Bob is not afraid of anything for god’s sakes, given what he went through in Vietnam,” said Kirschner. Indeed, everyone I have spoken with who knows Mueller has expressed an unwavering trust that the former F.B.I. director will see his job through to the bitter end. “He is the real deal. He will get to the bottom of this and no one is going to stop him,” said Eugene Casey, the former chief of the F.B.I.’s Eurasian Organized Crime Unit. “I just hope he doesn’t get fired and is able to complete his investigation.”

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-26 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-09-10 19:47
This reads like a requiem for Mueller -- "he was a valiant man but now he has left us."

Though it is risky to make predictions, I'd say there is no chance that Trump will talk to Mueller in person or in writing and he won't appear before a grand jury. Mueller has found nothing. He needs a perjury trap to include in his impeachment report to congress. He's just where Ken Starr ended up.

“Mueller wants to at least give the appearance that he is giving the president every opportunity to have his side heard,”

Is Abigail Tracy fucking kidding? You tell your side to a judge, not to the prosecutor. The prosecutor is looking to throw you ass in prison. Trump has told his side to the American people about 1,000 times on twitter. They are the jury. Less than 1% care about Russiagate and Mueller.

In reality, the walls are closing in around Mueller. He was brought in as a "fixer." He was the Clinton's long time "fixer." But it is not working. The people who brought him in are now facing criminal investigation. A Grand Jury is already looking into Comey and McCabe. Others will come soon. The DOJ's Inspector General's second report on the Russia stuff is due out in the fall. Criminal indictments will follow from that. This is a war of attrition. Mueller tried to knock out Trump's supporters first, but what happened was that his backers got sacked and investigated. He still has more who will fall. Weismann is next. The bitter end for Mueller is coming soon.
+2 # Kiwikid 2018-09-11 21:52
So good to have you reporting from the 'inside' RR. Your fact based assertion that less than 1% of the populace care about Russiagate and Mueller is particularly useful. I guess that means that the only people who do seem to care are left wing journalists, and this is good grounds for shutting down Mueller's investigation immediately.
-31 # BKnowswhitt 2018-09-10 20:19
The entire 'investigation' is a one sided partisan driven hack job of enormous proportions .. driven by teh disaffected cry baby left who ran a bad candidate machine politics style and lost .. it's in usa history .. past .. these convictions will be over turned down the road because congress by constitutional decree must have passed the right to investigate .. this fact is gone from view .. but it's the truth .. none of it is bipartisan .. they will find nothing of substance on trump and will get their asses kicked in mid terms and more because the Dem party stands for nothing but WHINING ..
-9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-09-11 09:13
BK "teh disaffected cry baby left "

I would not call the FBI/CIA/DOJ/NSA /DNI conspirators "left." They are people like Brennan. He's long been a functionary for the Clinton corruption machine. It is really a right wing organization. I'd also say this is the real heart of US fascism. It links up corporations, military, mercenaries, wall street banks, and other like minded fascists around the world (esp. Ukraine) in order to push an agenda of control of governments and corruption. It is a cabal or a criminal gang and Trump is not part of it. He's an outsider and he's being treated in the way most criminal gangs treat outsiders.

This gang also control most media in the US so they will probably win elections in November. They have the propaganda machinery. I sure as hell prefer democrats to republicans, but this gang of Hillary defenders are mostly republicans.
+13 # LionMousePudding 2018-09-10 22:38
Who has decided Mueller is in the home stretch? Who has decided that it will be wrapped up after the midterms? Sounds pretty unlikely to me; I am betting it does not come from Mueller himself.
+5 # harleysch 2018-09-11 02:27
Mueller "was a very good FBI director", said a former FBI agent.

Under Mueller, the FBI stonewalled the investigation into the Saudi role in 9/11. Former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the Joint Commission investigating 9/11, accused Mueller of "aggressive deception." The FBI withheld over 80,000 pages of documents related to Saudi activity, most of which are still classified.

Further, Mueller testified before the Congress that the evidence that Saddam had wmds was confirmed by his investigation.

These are just two of many aspects of his FBI career which raise serious questions as to his willingness to coverup explicit crimes committed by the war party, to insure that the their launching of unjustifiable wars and regime change coups can continue without the inconvenience of being challenged by the truth.

This hardly qualifies him as an "impartial" investigator.
+14 # chemtex2611 2018-09-11 10:57
Why bother to impeach him.

Let NY or NYC indict and try him for financial fraud. The wheels are turning in many places that don't need a majority of the Senate to convict.
Then he'll go to prison and cannot be pardoned. Giuliani can go visit him to trade stories.
0 # lfeuille 2018-09-12 00:26
They can't indict him while he's president, or at least it would probably not withstand a court challenge. They have to wait until he is removed from office.
+1 # chapdrum 2018-09-12 10:44
If unafraid Bob doesn't ENTIRELY clean out the corruption (e.g., not just Don), nothing will change. At all.

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