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Isikoff writes: "Special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are 'tying up loose ends' in their investigation, providing the clearest clues yet that the long-running probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election may be coming to its climax."

Robert Mueller. (photo: James Berglie/TNS)
Robert Mueller. (photo: James Berglie/TNS)

Mueller Preparing Endgame for Russia Probe

By Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News

04 December 18


pecial counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are “tying up loose ends” in their investigation, providing the clearest clues yet that the long-running probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election may be coming to its climax, potentially in the next few weeks, according to multiple sources close to the matter.

The new information about the state of Mueller’s investigation comes during a pivotal week when the special counsel’s prosecutors are planning to file memos about three of their most high profile defendants — former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

A Flynn sentencing memo is due Tuesday, and memos about Manafort and Cohen are slated for Friday. All three documents are expected to yield significant new details on what cooperation the three of them provided to the Russia investigation.

There has been much speculation that Mueller might file his memo in Manafort’s case under seal in order to prevent public disclosure of the additional crimes his office believes Manafort committed when he allegedly lied to prosecutors and broke a plea deal after agreeing to cooperate.

But Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel, confirmed to Yahoo News on Monday that the Manafort memo “will be public,” although he added there could be some portions that are redacted or filed as a sealed addendum. The Manafort memo has been requested by the federal judge in his case so that prosecutors could, for the first time, spell out what matters they believe Manafort has lied to them about.

The fact that Mueller is planning a public filing about Manafort suggests he may no longer feel the need to withhold information about his case in order to bring additional indictments against others. That would be consistent with messages his prosecutors have given defense lawyers in recent weeks indicating that they are in the endgame of their investigation.

“They’ve been telling people they are tying up loose ends and trying to conclude,” said one source familiar with the communications between Mueller’s office and defense lawyers who represent key witnesses in the case.

That message was reinforced to some degree Monday when Mueller’s office talked to congressional investigators as part of an ongoing discussion about whether new subpoenas for testimony by House and Senate committees might interfere with Mueller’s investigation.

The response, which surprised one investigator, was that it would not, at least in matters relating to alleged obstruction by the White House in the Russia investigation itself. “What we were told is that the investigation has reached a mature enough stage that they’ve basically talked to everybody they want to talk to,” said a knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Mueller’s office declined any public comment when asked to confirm that account, leaving open the possibility that there still could be a few witnesses yet to be questioned. Another source indicated that Mueller’s office is still asking congressional investigators to stay away from some other witnesses. But if true, the response on Monday could also be an indication that the special counsel does not plan to press for a face-to-face interview with President Trump, who submitted written responses to Mueller’s team in mid-November on matters relating to the Russia probe. The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, did not respond to a request for comment.

By all accounts, last week’s guilty plea by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was one of Mueller’s more significant documents. It revealed that during the 2016 presidential campaign, Cohen was in direct discussion with an assistant to Dmitri Peskov, the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, about securing financing and land for the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen told Mueller’s prosecutors that he briefed Trump about the plans on multiple occasions and that discussions about the Moscow skyscraper continued until June 2016 — six months after he previously had told Congress he pulled the plug on the project.

Cohen is due to be sentenced in federal court in New York next week. While Mueller has not yet filed a sentencing memo in that case, Cohen’s lawyers have asked that he avoid jail entirely, and Mueller’s sentencing memo is due Friday. The president, meanwhile, offered his own suggestion — that his former lawyer should be jailed and “serve a full and complete sentence” — in a tweetstorm early Monday.

The only other publicly known matter Mueller is believed to be focused on relates to former Trump adviser Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi — both of whom have been aggressively investigated to determine if they had advance communications with WikiLeaks or associates of the group about its plans for the release of stolen emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

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-30 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-04 10:53
Well, this is good news. Mueller is about to wrap up and to lay his hand face up on the table. Then -- maybe -- we will see what he has. If, as Isikoff says, Cohen was the big fish, then the final report is likely to be a real disappointment for the maximalists who believed that Trump's reign of crime was unrivaled in US history. Forgetting the correct date for a trivial but perfectly legal event just don't not rise to the level of 9-11, as some have claimed.

For me, I will just be glad to see the Mueller Probe out of the news stream. It has been a very destructive distraction and has ratcheted up the level of Fake News to truly unbearable levels.

I don't believe Mueller will go silently into the good night. He's got something up his sleeve. But we will have to wait and see. I don't think Assange is out of the woods yet. But we'll see.
+8 # HarryP 2018-12-04 15:13
Which is it Rodion? Will Mueller fold, or pull a couple of aces from his sleeve? Will he give you a shiny Christmas present, or throw you into another fit of depression? You got it covered both ways.
Btw, has anyone ever really argued that “Trump’s reign of crime was unrivaled in US history”? (Hope you know you sound like Trump.) You got the crime part right, but it doesn’t rise to the level of slavery, Jim Crow, Wounded Knee, Vietnam, etc. But it’s bad enough a crime. And it’s sui generis. No need to compare it to anything else. The crime consists of conspiring with a foreign power. Hope you enjoy it as long as it lasts.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-05 08:08
HP -- well given the Sentencing Memo for Flynn, I'm beginning to think Mueller is folding up his tents and going home. I agree with you. Trump's crimes do not rise to the level of the things you name or even to the level of the Clinton Foundation or their Pay to Play regime.

As to Mueller, I just had to go back to T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men." He's one of those --

The Hollow Men

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

. . . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

To Porfiry: And so he is going out with a whimper, not a bang.
+3 # HarryP 2018-12-05 23:23
Rodion: There’s no evidence Mueller is about to fold his tent and go home. If his Flynn sentencing memo tells us anything, it’s “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Flynn, Mueller writes (opaquely, I admit), will help the SpecialCounsel with an (unnamed) criminal conspiracy and two other (unnamed) items.
If Mueller indeed is folding his tent, we would have seen the sentencing memo in its entirety. We will see it after the dust has settled - and it won’t be pretty. Citing T.S. Eliot won’t change that.
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-06 17:54
HP -- you may be correct. Personally I don't think Mueller will stop until Trump is out of office and even then he may go after Trump and indict him for things he could not charge while Trump was president. I think Mueller's destroy Trump assignment is permanent.

But there are other signs, too. Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced by the judge next month. Once the sentence is imposed, Mueller loses control of him. Mueller has lost control of Papadopoulos. He has "paid his debt to society" and is now free. He does not need to help Mueller and he is free to talk against Mueller in the media. Mueller seems to be losing control of his most important witnesses.

I really don't know where this will go. I think Mueller was a fraud from the start. the whole thing was a made up political campaign trick. It should stop, but the people behind Mueller are not the kind to ever stop. We will see. The media loves Mueller so they may keep him alive just for their pleasure.
-3 # Porfiry 2018-12-04 18:01
Said without an ounce of proof one way or the other. Thus we'll have to see. Either a bombshell or a deflated balloon.
+11 # RMF 2018-12-04 13:42
RR -- can you identify even one point in the Isikoff story that you believe is false.

Moreover, Trump's repeated lying to the body politic about his business plans in Russia seems much more than a "trivial" detail the candidate simply forgot on multiple occasions.

The thing about evidence is that it is circumstantial and cumulative -- and must be assessed in it's totality, something which you impliedly dispute and continually disregard.

Beyond that the evidence pointing to a connection between bank financing for the Tower and the lifting of sanctions seems palpable. These are dots that anyone should be able to connect. And the upshot is that a sitting president, running a fraudulent campaign, shown to favor personal interests over those of the electorate is clearly subject to impeachment. And failure to enforce the twin Constitutional duties of loyalty and care for the nation and body politic would set a precedent of horrible implications going forward.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-05 08:15
RMF -- I happen to believe that elected officials who lie to the public in the course of their jobs should be prosecuted for perjury. This would have indicted all recent presidents and most of the congress. But it may also have stopped the lying.

But in business negotiations, no one tells the truth or reveals everything they have. There are cases in which truth is required - financial disclosures, contracts, etc.

Trump's plans to build hotels in very many big cities around the world were well known. It was part of his company's marketing claim. No one in Russia was interested in partnering with him. The proposal fell flatter than a pancake. He was rejected flat out. That's the important story. Had Trump been Putin's Puppet as is claimed in bold statements in the CIA/MI6/FBI/DOJ /Fusion Dossier, he would have gotten a good deal and support from the Russian government. But he got nothing. Cohen's testimony is proof the Steele Dossier is false.

I'm not saying Isikoff's piece is false. It is all speculation. We really don't know what Mueller will do. Isikoff is much closer to the leaks than I am but he's still speculating. We all have to do that.
+4 # RMF 2018-12-05 13:13
RR -- not all lies are homogeneous. And failing to understand that is also a failure to understand the legal and Constitutional system.

Yes, you can believe anything you want, but that does not make your belief an accurate representation of law or morality or ethics.

The reason the Trump lies (being plural is part of it) differ is that they were a fraud on the entire body politic, much the same as occurs with a "fraud on the market" when a powerful interest manipulates globally a market -- e.g., Sumitomo manipulation of copper market few years ago.

Another analogy, from the world of securities regulation, would focus on the materiality of the campaign info -- Trump repeatedly claimed he had NO BUSINESS INTERESTS IN RUSSIA. Clearly material, so if this was a securities offering it would be slam-dunk fraud.

Of course politics and campaigning are not securities regulation, but Trump's lies about Russia interests and the Moscow Tower are so pervasive, so egregious, that just as in securities regulation it is a material fraud on the "political" market.

It is equally true that Trump was not under oath when he made and spread those lies widely and repeatedly during the campaign, and that is why the complex of Moscow Tower lies alone is an impeachable offense even if not perjury. Among other things it is tantamount to acting like a king, something for which the Founding Fathers took pains to provide a remedy.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-06 08:18
RMF -- a agree with you that the current practice of US politics is something that should be called "fraud on the US population and the world's population." Lying to the American people is just endemic. Surely, you remember the text of the speech Hillary gave to Goldman Sachs in which she explained that politicians have to say one thing to voters on the campaign trail and another to bankers assembled in a private meeting. That's the sort of fraud nearly all politicians commit every day and it should be stopped in some way.

I'm not going to disagree with you that Trump is a huckster, con-artists, liar, bully, and a lot of other things. But I don't see his actions as outside of or beyond the scope of politics as usual in the US. Bush's Iraq WMD lies were outside of the scope of everything. A million people died because of those lies. We do have good examples of "killer lies." Trump's Moscow Tower fantasy was just not important.

I wonder when the Trump haters will realize that he's not a king. He is in fact a weak and inexperienced president. The real kings were in the Bush dynasty. Trump is a aberration in US politics. He's an outsider who managed to win. The ruling elites of the US will make damn sure that it never happens again. They got lazy because Hillary was such a shoe-in. But they did have an "insurance policy" and that's what we are seeing now.
0 # RMF 2018-12-06 12:54

You quote Hillary saying "politicians have to say one thing to voters on the campaign trail and another to bankers assembled in a private meeting."

But that is NOT A LIE -- indeed, it's properly called OPINION, and may in fact be truthful.

In any case not being a LIE it cannot be FRAUD either. Rather, Hillary is saying that politicians often lie when campaigning for office, in part because they are trying to appeal to constituencies with diverse interests, often at odds with one another. And campaign speech that is advocacy is also aspirational or forward looking, not a "lie" about a material fact in the past or present. But this is just like COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING -- puffing of the truth is perfectly OK and not actionable, as this is just part of legally acceptable advertising -- and although it is false it does not rise to the level of FRAUD.

It's difficult to draw a bright line test for Campaign Fraud, but it's clear that Trump has crossed that line, and his campaign has committed a fraud on the body politic.

But we cannot take steps that "it be stopped in some way" -- this would require prior restraint in policing campaign speech, which is not consistent with democratic process. We can only take them one at a time, after crimes are committed. And bringing Trump to the bar of justice may be a cautionary note for future campaigns contemplating a RICO type scheme to gain the White House.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-06 18:04
The answer is just don't vote for someone you don't trust and you suspect of lying to you. Many people thought this about Hillary. Same for Trump. 2016 was a very bed election year. There were almost no good candidates. the good ones were pushed out by the bad ones.

I doubt if RICO could be applied to a president. Most of what people think is criminality on Trump's part is only political difference. His support for the Yemen, Syrian, Afghan, and other wars is truly criminal, but very few people are trying to get him for that. they want to bust him for firing Comey or something like that. He had the authority to fire Comey. That's his job.

Criminalizing political differences is a real problem now. Republicans started this in their attacks on Clinton and Obama. But now Demos are doing it and they have drawn on their lackeys like Comey, Mueller, Rosenstein, and many others. These may be republicans in name but they know who pays them and they do what they are paid to do.
0 # Salus Populi 2018-12-04 16:46
I'm impressed with the timing of the Trumputin saga. Have you noticed that every single time there's the threat of closer relations with Russia, and a reduced level of tensions that may even preclude the planned "horrible" and supposedly inevitable nuclear war with Russia [as proclaimed last week by the commission set up by Congress to study what the most effective propaganda in favor of such a global catastrophe might be], that's when a sudden "new" development comes out of The Never Ending Story of Putin's supposed, and the Russians' apparent genetic, villainy to undermine any sort of meaningful diplomatic exchange, as late last week in Argentina? It reminds me of the shoot-down of the spy plane in Russian air space, piloted by Francis Gary Powers in the earlier days of the first Cold War, timed to kill a planned summit between Eisenhower and Krushchev, if memory serves. Of course, all these sudden and conveniently timed revelations must entirely be a coincidence, _n'est pas_?

Funny how as we get older -- I'm 68 -- more and more of our most paranoid and cynical assumptions about the lengths to which the oligarchy will go to preserve its power and increase its wealth and dominance turn out to be, metaphorically, just the tip of the iceberg.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-05 08:17
Salus -- you nailed it. Mueller is running a covert foreign policy shop. He and his accomplices in the major media are steering Trump foreign policy. They are aided by government like Ukraine which is a CIA controlled regime, too.

Too bad Trump is not smart enough and strong enough to just call their bluffs.
0 # Salus Populi 2018-12-07 14:29
He clearly threw in the towel when he hired Bolton, Haspel, and Pompeo to run his foreign policy. He may still long to carry out a _reprochement_ with Russia, and admire "strongman" Putin, but it's not as important to him as looking tough and shoring up his declining popularity by going along with the neo-cons as they advance their project to carry out a nuclear "surprise attack" against the rest of the world.

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