End of Mueller shifts focus to existing probes
Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is finished investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, shifting the focus to cases spawned by his 22-month probe.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report’s release: poll MORE’s former personal attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Dems face tricky balancing act after Mueller report New normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE’s campaign finance violations thanks to one of more than a dozen referrals Mueller made to other districts in the course of his investigation.
Prosecutors in Washington are eyeing a November trial for Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneHeavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered The Hill’s Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today Live coverage: Frenzy in DC as Congress, White House brace for Mueller report MORE, a case Mueller passed off when he shuttered his probe after charging the former Trump ally with lying to Congress about his interactions with WikiLeaks. Prosecutors are also pursuing an active case against the people behind the Russian troll farm accused of meddling in the election. Mueller charged them more than a year ago.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, is expected to soon take the witness stand against his onetime business partner for allegedly illegally lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.
And House Democrats appear intent on using Mueller’s report to pursue their own case on obstruction of justice against the president.
The version of Mueller’s 448-page report that Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report’s release: poll Trump: Mueller report was ‘written as nastily as possible’ by ‘true Trump Haters’ MORE released publicly on Thursday is redacted to prevent “harm to ongoing matters,” including investigations stemming from the special counsel’s original probe.
As a result, details on other cases are shrouded in mystery.
Still, the scope of the redactions serves as a reminder of the reach of Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller obtained 37 indictments or guilty pleas, including charges against six Trump associates for making false statements and other crimes.
Mueller submitted his report without recommending further indictments, and he did not find sufficient evidence to accuse members or associates of Trump’s 2016 campaign of conspiring with the Kremlin to meddle in the election.
But he did refer 14 instances of potential criminal activity to law enforcement in other districts that fell outside his original mandate to investigate Russian meddling.
Only two of those are revealed in the report: the evidence that precipitated Cohen’s first guilty plea in August as well as the case involving former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, who pleaded not guilty to violating foreign lobbying laws last week. It is unclear whether the other 12 unknown matters will ultimately yield criminal charges.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are still investigating Cohen’s payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump before the election, which authorities say amount to campaign finance violations. Cohen has claimed publicly that Trump directed him to make the payments and paid him back while in office. Trump has denied wrongdoing.
Some of the ongoing investigations and criminal cases could present political problems for a White House seeking to move on after Mueller.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had gathered more evidence in the hush money probe through interviews with members of Trump’s inner circle, such as Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump feared Mueller’s appointment: ‘This is the end of my Presidency’ Investigators in Trump hush money probe interviewed Hicks, security chief: report The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — House Dems flex subpoena powers MORE, that implicated him in federal crimes. Federal prosecutors in New York are also said to be investigating Trump’s inaugural committee.
Justice Department policy is not to indict a sitting president, but it’s possible prosecutors indict Trump for campaign finance violations after he leaves office.
Large swaths of Mueller’s report are redacted, apparently to conceal details related to the criminal case against Stone. He allegedly communicated with Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks’s releases involving the Clinton campaign and then lied about them to congressional investigators. Stone has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the charges.
“Maybe that conduct does not amount to criminal conspiracy … but it could still remind people that some in the Trump campaign were trying to encourage and benefit from the Russian hack and the WikiLeaks dump,” said Elie Honig, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. “If Stone goes to trial, we are going to learn who those senior Trump campaign officials were.”
GOP strategist Doug Heye says the political implications for Trump are limited barring a major development that directly implicates him.
“They’re a communication issue because it keeps a lot of the story alive, but as long as Trump is not directly implicated in any of this, politically, it shouldn’t affect him at all,” Heye said.
“He’s already shown a willingness of himself to aggressively distance himself … from former staff,” Heye added, noting Trump’s public attacks on Cohen’s credibility.
Some of the continuing cases, including the charges against Russians who ran the St. Petersburg troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, have little to do with the president but could shed further light on the extent of Russia’s influence operations.
Mueller’s probe has also produced new fodder for the Democrat-controlled House.
Following the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, Democrats have shifted their attention to the details laid out with respect to 10 episodes where Mueller examined potential obstruction by Trump. The special counsel wrote that he lacked “confidence” to rule definitively that Trump did not criminally obstruct justice, and that his report did not exonerate the president.
The report depicts a president deeply concerned over the appointment of the special counsel and intent on seizing control of his investigation, though aides largely prevented Trump from executing any actions that could be perceived as obstruction.
Some Democrats have even revived discussions about potential impeachment proceedings, though Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at ‘premature’ subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars MORE (D-Calif.) and other leaders have signaled they have little appetite for such action in the absence of new and overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
House Democrats are demanding unfettered access to Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence, rejecting an offer from Barr to allow select lawmakers to view a less redacted version in secure spaces. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis Nadler4/20: Will Congress advance marijuana legislation in 2019? Trump accuses ‘fake news media’ of ‘doing everything possible to stir up anger’ after Mueller report Trump: Mueller report was ‘written as nastily as possible’ by ‘true Trump Haters’ MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday issued a subpoena for the special counsel’s full report, saying Congress needs it to guide its own probes into Trump and his administration.
“Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates,” Nadler said. “It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.”
Trump criticized the report as an illegal “big, fat, waste of time” in a series of tweets Friday, while he and his allies have celebrated the report as proof of “no collusion.”