Conservative legal experts are expressing alarm at the widening scope of the probe launched in May by special counsel Robert Mueller. The probe has reached far beyond a search for any direct evidence of deliberate collusion by members of the Trump campaign team with Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Reports have leaked that Mueller’s investigation has recently sought subpoenas from at least two grand juries seeking information about the financial dealings of Trump’s real estate and other businesses ventures with anyone from a Russian background.
According to CNN, the FBI is currently reviewing financial records related to the Trump Organization, as well as the personal finances of Trump, members of his family and his campaign associates. They have investigated the shell companies and other buyers of Trump-branded real estate properties and the rent-paying tenants at Trump Tower in Manhattan going back more than six years. The search also includes Trump’s 2008 sale of a Palm Beach, Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch at a substantial profit.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump warned investigators that his financial dealings were a red line they shouldn’t cross, but he stopped short of threatening to take any specific action against Mueller if he refused to heed the warning.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May to serve as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s election meddling. Rosenstein has rejected calls to reign in the scope of the Mueller investigation.
He said in a Sunday interview on Fox News, “the special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice, and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions.” Regarding reports that Mueller has asked two grand juries for subpoenas to aid in his investigation, Rosenstein said that such actions are a routine part of “many investigations.”
“It’s an appropriate way to gather documents, sometimes to bring witnesses in, to make sure that you get their full testimony. It’s just a tool that we use like any other tool in the course of our investigations,” he added.
Matthew Whitaker, a CNN legal commentator and former U.S. attorney, wrote an opinion piece objecting to Mueller’s expansion of his investigation to Trump financial matters which are “completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government.” Whittaker argues, and many agree, that Mueller has clearly exceeded the specific authority Rosenstein granted to him when he named him as special counsel. He also noted Rosenstein’s acknowledgement in the Fox News interview that Mueller had limited authority and would need to seek his permission to expand the investigation.
DON JR.’S JUNE 2016 MEETING WITH THE RUSSIAN LAWYER.
The FBI is also looking at the Russian-connected business associates who paid Trump to produce an internationally broadcast event in Moscow in 2013. One of them was the same person who contacted Donald Trump Jr. last year to ask him to meet with a visiting Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. He told Donald Jr. that the lawyer had damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the files of a Russian prosecutor that would be useful to the Trump campaign. Donald Jr. asked his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to sit in on the meeting.
Once it got started, it quickly became apparent that the information on Clinton was too non-specific to be useful and that the Russian lawyer was pursuing another agenda entirely. She was lobbying for the lifting of a set of U.S. sanctions that had prompted the Russian government to halt the adoption of Russian babies by would-be American parents, but the members of the Trump campaign who were present weren’t interested. They viewed the meeting as a waste of time. Kushner left the meeting early and Manafort tuned out, spending the time checking the messages on his smartphone. Even Donald Jr. admitted that he made a mistake by agreeing to the meeting in the first place.
It is mostly important because of the trail of emails setting up the meeting, in which Donald Jr. expressed a keen interest in the information the Russians were offering for use against Clinton. It is also the only firm evidence that anyone from the Trump team met with Russians during the campaign, even though, by all accounts, no useful information was transferred.
Nevertheless, everyone associated with that meeting has been duly added to the long list of suspects and accusations that Mueller and his investigators are now tracking down.
STILL NO EVIDENCE OF ANY CRIME
The original FBI probe into Russian hacking into computer systems at the Democrat National Committee, as well as less successful attempts to hack into Republican computers, was launched in 2015.
In the summer of 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies noticed a series of contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence agents. By July 2016, the FBI had enough information on Russian hacking efforts and suspicious contacts with the Trump campaign to open a formal investigation, which soon merged with the probes by the U.S. intelligence agencies.
They had intercepted communications between Russian operatives indicating a desire to work with Trump’s associates and specifically his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, but aside from the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, investigators found no evidence of a willingness by anyone in the Trump campaign to obtain any kind of help from Russian sources.
To this day, Mueller’s investigators have yet to find sufficient evidence to file criminal indictments against any Trump campaign associates for illegally assisting Russian attempts to interfere with the election.
Trump and those associated with his campaign insist that no such evidence exists because nobody in Trump’s camp cooperated with the Russian efforts.
On Sunday, senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called the Mueller probe a “fabrication.” At a campaign-style rally on Thursday in West Virginia, Trump again condemned “the totally made-up Russia story.”
MUELLER’S GRAND JURY POLITICAL WEAPON
In the absence of any hard evidence of Trump campaign collusion, legal experts fear that Mueller intends to use the power of federal grand juries to report misconduct by public officials to lay a foundation for impeachment proceedings based upon complaints unrelated to collusion with the Russians.
Former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that it may not be legally possible to file criminal indictments against a sitting president for exercising the Constitutional powers of his office, such as firing an FBI director. Even if he is unable to prove that the president has committed any crime, Mueller could use his investigation to create a sufficient appearance of wrongdoing to justify Democrats launching an impeachment process against Trump in the House, assuming that they can achieve their goal of winning back majority control of the chamber in the 2018 midterm election.
The language of the federal statute (Section 3333 of Title 18, U.S. Code) gives grand juries the power to report “noncriminal misconduct, malfeasance, or misfeasance in office involving organized criminal activity by an appointed public officer or employee as the basis for a recommendation of removal or disciplinary action.”
It would seem to exclude anything that Donald Trump or a member of his administration did prior to taking office in January 2016. The statute also limits itself to misconduct by an “appointed” rather than an elected public official.
National Review commentator Andrew McCarthy worries that Mueller and his pro-Democrat prosecutors will try to extend the limits of the statute to justify a grand jury report accusing Trump of attempting to obstruct justice after he entered office by trying to influence the FBI investigation of his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, and his subsequent firing of FBI Director James Comey.
A CLINTON-INSTIGATED SLOW-MOTION COUP
Town Hall commentator Derek Hunter suggests that the Mueller probe is part of a post-election plan hatched by disappointed leaders of the Clinton presidential campaign, John Podesta and Robbie Mook, to launch a “slow-rolling coup” against Trump, based upon unproven Russian conspiracy accusations. Its goal was no less than reversing the outcome of the November election.
Hunter’s source is a recently published book by political journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes called, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”
Working out of the Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, and starting within 24 hours of her concession speech, Podesta and Mook had no difficulty persuading their many friends in the mainstream media to launch an all-out campaign to discredit the legitimacy of Trump’s election, using any tactic, from accusations of voter fraud to blatant attempt to intimidate pledged members of the Electoral College into changing their votes.
After Trump’s election was duly certified, enabling him to take office, Clinton and her supporters put as much of the blame for her defeat on Comey’s outrageous handling of the crippled investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s e-mails as interference by the Russians. After Comey’s firing turned him into a martyr for the anti-Trump resistance, the baseless Russian conspiracy theory became the only excuse for challenging Trump’s legitimacy that had not yet been totally discredited. Comey has boasted in congressional testimony that his post-firing leak of his version of a private conversation with Trump to the media was deliberately intended to manipulate the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor. The success of that effort is Comey’s political revenge on Trump, yet he has largely escaped any serious criticism for it, at least from Democrats and the mainstream media.
A DEMOCRAT ANTI-TRUMP OBSESSION
Democrat and mainstream media efforts to demonize and discredit Trump have become an obsession, overwhelming all other political issues, with no sign of slowing down. Only in recent weeks have prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer realized that their lack of coherent political agenda aside from bashing Trump and praising Obamacare could become a problem for their candidates in the 2018 midterm election. Their belated attempts to fashion a unified Democrat policy agenda have been stymied by the yawning ideological divide between the extreme demands of Bernie Sanders-style progressives and the obsolete, poll-driven policy slogans that helped doom Hillary Clinton’s campaign to defeat.
Since the November election, the mainstream media has eagerly served as the PR component of the Democrat Party’s so-called “resistance” effort. That is the preferred euphemism for the Democrat conspiracy to keep Congress in political gridlock, block the enforcement of federal immigration laws and achieve the non-violent overthrow of a duly elected president.
MEDIA IGNORES THE RUSSIAN ROOTS OF THE TRUMP DOSSIER
Most of the mainstream media has turned a blind eye towards any revelations that do not serve their purpose of discrediting the president. It has studiously ignored the role of Russian intelligence operatives in compiling the so-called “Trump dossier” filled with wild, unproven suggestions that Trump would be subject to Russian blackmail once he was president. The media has also refused to focus on the money paid by Democrats to a firm called GPS-Fusion, which compiled the dossier as opposition research against Trump last year, and then tried for months to get major media outlets and the FBI to accept its unproven allegations. Last week, Senate Democrats, who are still trying to find evidence to substantiate their charges of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, loudly cried foul when they learned that two Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee went to London this summer to try to track down and question Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 intelligence agent who was paid by GPS Fusion to compile the Trump dossier from his Russian sources and then shopped it around to the media and the FBI.
WHOLESALE FRAUD ON CAPITOL HILL
The mainstream media has also downplayed the significance of revelations that former Democratic National Committee (DNC) head and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been protecting a corrupt congressional IT staffer named Imran Awan. He was arrested by the FBI last month as he attempted to escape by flying to Pakistan. Since 2004, Awan succeeded in putting four other family members on the payroll of top congressional Democrats, and gaining access to highly classified information on congressional computers. The FBI has accused Awan of defrauding the Congressional Federal Credit Union by lying to it to get a $165,000 home-equity loan, which immediately became part of a $283,000 wire transfer he made to Pakistan. His wife had already fled to Pakistan in March, after being briefly detained at the airport for carrying $12,400 in undeclared cash. Other federal charges against Awan and other members of his family while working for Democrats in Congress include bankruptcy fraud, life-insurance fraud, tax fraud and extortion.
Because the Awan family’s misdeeds involved only Democrats and could not be used against Trump, they are ignored by mainstream media outlets. They were publicized primarily by Luke Rosiak, a reporter for the Daily Caller, an independent, conservative-leaning news website. The Daily Caller was co-founded in 2010 by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, who recently took over Bill O’Reilly’s prime time slot on the network.
The fraudulent employment of Aman family members by congressional Democrats had been going on for years before Capitol Police confirmed in February that they were investigating them for government theft.
Rosiak reported that members of the Awan family collected $5 million in federal salaries since 2003 and “appeared at one time or another on an estimated 80 House Democrats’ payrolls.”
Rosiak discovered that many of these were no-show jobs. For example, Awan’s brother, Abid, ran up more than $1 million in debts while operating a failed car dealership while he was supposedly working full time on Capitol Hill.
On the other hand, Imran Awan claimed on a financial disclosure form that his wife had no income, while she was on the federal payroll as a House IT staffer like her husband.
Fox News legal analyst, former judge Andrew Napolitano believes that these charges may just be “the tip of the iceberg.
The real allegation against [Awarn is] he had access to the emails of every member of Congress and he sold what he found in there. What did he sell? And to whom did he sell it? That is what the FBI wants to know,” Napolitano said.
A VICTIM OF ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY?
Even after his fraud was publicly exposed, Wasserman-Schultz kept Imran Awan on her congressional payroll and accepted his claim that he was an innocent victim of “a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Wasserman-Schultz had been a leading liberal supporter of President Obama. She was forced to resign her DNC post on the eve of the 2016 Democrat National Convention when hacked DNC emails revealed her part in a conspiracy during the primaries to deny Bernie Sanders the presidential nomination. But the mainstream media and her fellow Democrats rarely mention her proven part in a successful conspiracy to unfairly influence the outcome of the 2016 Democrat presidential nomination process. They are apparently too busy promoting similar but unproven charges against Trump and members of his campaign team.
The New York Times casually dismissed the Awan fraud scandal as an “overblown Washington story, typical of midsummer.” One suspects, however, that the same story would have received much more serious treatment from the Times if the members of the Awan family had appeared on Republican instead of Democrat congressional payrolls.
THE MYTH OF MUELLER’S IMPARTIALITY
The Trump administration and its supporters have succeeded in raising serious doubts about the impartiality of the Mueller investigation, even though Mueller himself was careful to avoid any partisan political affiliations during his long career in federal law enforcement. When he was appointed to lead the probe, Mueller initially received bipartisan praise as an impartial law enforcement official of the highest integrity. However, most of the prosecutors and attorneys Mueller has hired for the Russian investigation are former donors to Democrat presidential campaigns. One of them did legal work for the Clinton Family Foundation. Many of them have experience investigating fraud and financial crimes, lending credence to fears that Mueller intends to go through the dealings of Trump’s business empire with a fine-toothed comb.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes the Mueller’s intentions have been revealed by the partisan political connections of the people he has hired to investigate Trump and his campaign. This not only includes a predominance of contributions by the private attorneys to Democrat candidates since 2004, but also the overwhelming preferences for Democrats by career employees from the Department of Justice working on the investigation. According to financial records from the 2016 presidential campaign, employees of the Department of Justice donated $286,797 (97% of the total) to the Clinton campaign, but only $8,756 (3% of the total) to Trump.
In addition, employees at Mueller’s private law firm, WilmerHale, gave $326,798 to the 2016 Clinton campaign, and only $628 to Trump, a stunning 520-1 ratio.
Gingrich believes that the heavily pro-Clinton private lawyers and Justice Department employees who make up Mueller’s team amount to “a political hit squad [which} will stop at nothing to damage and oppose President Trump and his agenda. . . These people are not seeking truth in their investigations, they’re attempting an establishment coup d’état to destroy members of the Trump administration.”
WHAT IF THERE NEVER WAS ANY CRIME?
C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, shares Gingrich’s concern that the Mueller investigation, which, after a year, has failed to find evidence of collusion, is in danger of becoming sidetracked in the same way as the Iran-Contra investigation did. After seven years of investigation, (1986-93) it failed to indict anyone on the crime it was originally supposed to investigate, and secured convictions only for peripheral, “process” crimes, such as obstructing the investigation.
Gray also reminds us that U.S. law does not forbid all contacts between foreign agents and members of domestic political campaigns. It is legal for registered foreign agents to advocate and lobby political candidates, as long as they don’t make campaign contributions. That makes it even more difficult for Mueller’s investigators to find evidence they can use in court against members of the Trump campaign, and more urgent for Mueller to end his investigation once it becomes clear that no underlying crime of collusion was committed.
As the probe has progressed, Mueller has made no effort to stop a steady flow of leaks to the media. This includes revelations about the “secret” deliberations of two grand juries which Mueller has called upon so far. The leaks suggest that he is leaving no stone unturned to uncover Trump’s past business dealings with Russians, whether or not they had anything to do with collusion to influence the election. Mueller appears determined to pursue any evidence of wrongdoing by the president and anyone who was ever associated with him.
WHY TRUMP’S LAWYERS SHOULD NOT COOPERATE WITH MUELLER
That impression prompted former federal prosecutor George Parry, who now practices law in Philadelphia, to publicly urge Trump’s private defense lawyer, Ty Cobb, to withdraw his recent statement that, “the White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
In an essay published by Philly.com, Parry says that he “spent more than 20 years as a prosecutor conducting federal and state grand jury investigations and another 20 years as a defense lawyer representing targets of grand juries.”
He warned Cobb, “The absolute last thing someone in your client’s position should do is cooperate with Mueller. For the target of a grand jury investigation, cooperation is a sucker play guaranteed to result in disaster. If your client is a so-called person of interest or potential target, never, ever allow him to testify before the grand jury. Same thing for giving a statement to an investigator. It’s a trap, plain and simple.
“Even if the prosecutor can’t prove that your client committed the crime supposedly being investigated, he will be charged with obstruction of justice or some similar offense for providing false information to agents or false swearing. This will happen as surely as night follows day.”
Parry predicts, “If Trump gives a statement to an agent or testifies before the grand jury, all Mueller will have to do is have Comey, his friend and former colleague, provide contrary evidence. And whose testimony do you think Mueller will credit?”
Parry concludes his op-ed by reminding Cobb that in addition to his professional duty to protect his client, President Trump, he also has a duty to “more than 60 million very angry pro-Trump voters who are watching to see if the immutable and permanent Washington political class will effectively disenfranchise them by using the criminal justice system to reverse the outcome of the election.”
TRUMP FOES CIRCLING THEIR WAGONS AROUND MUELLER
Some legal experts say that ethical standards require Mueller to recuse himself from the investigation if Comey is called upon to give testimony because of Mueller’s long personal friendship and professional association with Comey at the Justice Department.
Democrats and mainstream media reports have interpreted such suggestions and public accusations by Trump supporters of political bias by Mueller and his team as an implied threat that Trump will try to fire him, in the same way that President Richard Nixon ordered members of his Justice Department to fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, on October 20, 1973. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order. The so-called “Saturday night massacre” badly damaged Nixon’s credibility and helped set the stage for his forced resignation on August 8, 1974.
Many Democrats are hoping to repeat that scenario to bolster public support for their efforts to discredit and ultimately impeach Trump.
REPUBLICAN ANTI-TRUMP FELLOW TRAVELERS
To protect Mueller from being fired on the basis of his conflict of interest and the political bias of his investigators, Democrats have sought the support of anti-Trump Republican senators, such as Thom Tillis of North Carolina, for legislation requiring judicial review of any effort by Trump to dismiss the special counsel.
Tillis says he disagrees with Trump’s characterization of the Russian probe as a politically inspired witch hunt. He claims that his only reason for backing the legislation which weakens Trump’s authority is to protect the independence of the Justice Department.
“We’ll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax or a distraction,” Tillis said on Sunday. “But we are where we are, and I want to see this investigation concluded so that we can get on to doing the good work the president has already started with regulatory reform, health care and tax reform.”
It is hard to believe that Tillis is too naive to understand the practical effect of associating himself with the Democrat effort to immunize Mueller against punishment for his anti-Trump bias. It will only intensify the current witch hunt atmosphere and further prolong the investigation, to the detriment of everything on the Republican legislative agenda that Tillis claims to support.
MORE UNPROVEN SCHIFF ACCUSATIONS
Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been one of the leaders of that witch hunt. He has never missed an opportunity to cast suspicion on President Trump. But whenever he is asked to back up those suspicions with proof, he retreats behind the convenient claim of confidentiality in the interests of national security by saying, “I can’t comment on that.”
On Sunday, Schiff called reports that Mueller sought subpoenas from a second grand jury, in addition to one looking into prior accusations against Michael Flynn, “a significant development.”
“That means one year later, rather than turning that investigation off, rather than concluding, ‘We’ve looked at this for a year; there’s really nothing to see here,’ as the president would claim, instead . . . it’s moving into a new phase,” Schiff said in a CNN interview. “That wouldn’t be taking place if there was really no evidence, no evidentiary basis to move forward.”
Schiff also referred to the White House admission last week that Donald Trump Jr. received input from his father in drafting his initial statement about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in which he did not mention the real reason why he agreed to see the Russian lawyer.
“And now you add on the layer of the president, if these allegations are true, helping to fabricate a false statement about what that meeting was about,” Schiff said, implying that the president was trying hide evidence of an intent by his campaign to collude with the Russians.
Schiff said his committee and Mueller are looking at the same issues related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, including payments he received from Turkey during the final months of the 2016 campaign and earlier payments he took from RT, a Russian government-backed television network. Schiff implied that because Flynn failed to submit the required reports about those payments at the time, he is now being pressured to become a prosecution witness. “If General Flynn was shown to have violated the law in other ways, it would be an incentive for him to cooperate more broadly with the Mueller investigation,” Schiff said.
CHRISTIE DEFENDS TRUMP AND MUELLER
Schiff’s interpretation of these developments was refuted on the same CNN program by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump supporter and former federal prosecutor. He downplayed the significance of Mueller’s request for subpoenas from a D.C. grand jury as “a typical thing to be done in any investigation.”
Christie did not deny that Mueller’s investigation could extend inappropriately to Trump’s financial dealings unrelated to Russia, noting that sometimes special counsels feel “the need to produce something in return for their appointment.”
But Christie was also quick to call Mueller “a good man” who could be trusted not to abuse his power by going on a “fishing expedition.”
Christie agreed that the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was “ill-advised. . . This is not something that should have happened. Everybody in retrospect knows that this is a bad idea.”
The New Jersey governor added, “We don’t know that the president knew about those emails,” in which Don Jr. expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of receiving Russian information to use against Clinton. “And so we don’t know what his own son told him about that meeting,” Christie said.
In a separate interview, Kellyanne Conway insisted that she and Trump “had no knowledge of that meeting” at the time it took place. “I found out about it when you found out about it, when the rest of the public did,” Conway added.
MUELLER STILL LOOKING AT FLYNN AND MANAFORT
Aside from the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and the search for evidence of Russian involvement in Trump’s financial dealings, Mueller’s investigation is largely focused on Russian contacts with four former Trump campaign associates, Flynn, Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone, as it was under Comey.
Flynn was one of the earliest and most outspoken supporters of Trump’s presidential campaign. He came under suspicion when a Justice Department tap of his phone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in late December 2016 revealed that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials by not telling them that he and Kislyak had discussed a new set of U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Three days after Trump’s inauguration, on January 24, Andrew McCabe, then the deputy FBI director, called Flynn, who was serving as Trump’s National Security Advisor, and sent two FBI agents to his White House office. They warned him that his dishonesty about the conversations with Kislyak made him vulnerable to a Russian blackmail attempt.
The public disclosure of that dishonesty in a leak to the Washington Post led President Trump to dismiss Flynn from his post in February. However, the FBI has not yet filed charges against Flynn over the Kislyak phone calls because its investigators don’t think that he was intentionally being dishonest about them.
Flynn insists that he never colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election, but he did compromise himself by agreeing to accept payment from the Russians for his appearances on its RT television outlet and his RT-related December 2015 trip to Moscow.
Flynn is also under investigation for accepting $530,000 for his lobbying work in 2016 on behalf of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, without first registering as a foreign agent, as required by federal law. Flynn’s lawyers have since retroactively registered his lobbying.
RUSSIANS SAID TO HAVE TARGETED MANAFORT
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort appears to be the most vulnerable target of the Mueller investigations. Criticism of Manafort’s record as a well-paid political consultant to pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine forced him to step down as Trump’s campaign manager last summer after only three months on the job.
According to CNN, concern about Manafort deepened after U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted communications between Russian operatives discussing their conversations with Manafort in which they encouraged him to accept their help with the Trump campaign. However, there is no direct evidence that Manafort agreed to accept help from the Russians, and he vigorously denies it.
In response to the CNN report, his spokesman declared, “Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election or to hack the DNC. Other than that comment, we aren’t going to respond to anonymous officials illegally peddling second hand conspiracy theories. But the Justice Department, and the courts if necessary, should hold someone to account for the flood of unlawful government leaks targeting Mr. Manafort.”
The spokesman also said it “is becoming increasingly apparent that there was no collusion between the campaign and the Russian government.”
Without any direct evidence of collusion with the Russians that can be used in court against Manafort, the Mueller investigation is reportedly focused on whether he was involved in money laundering or tax violations arising from his business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine. Manafort is also under investigation for suspect investments he made in his son-in-law’s real estate dealings.
CARTER PAGE AND ROGER STONE
Carter Page has been suspected by U.S. intelligence services of working for the Russians since 2014. Page was named by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisors in March 2016. That summer, FBI counterintelligence investigators received indications that Russian intelligence agents hoped to use Page to influence Trump. They obtained a secret FISA warrant to place him under surveillance. Page stepped down as a Trump campaign advisor last September after he was publicly accused of illegal contacts with Russian officials who were under U.S. sanctions. Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks then downplayed Page’s role as an “informal” advisor to Trump who did “’not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.’”
Page admits to interacting with some Russians during the campaign, but denies participating in Russian attempts to meddle in the election.
Roger Stone has long been one of Trump’s most controversial advisors. He drifted in and out of Trump’s presidential campaign, and admits to online conversations with Guccifer 2.0, which is one of the better-known Russian hacker cover names. But Stone insists that all of those conversations were innocuous.
NEW “SMOKING GUNS” OF COLLUSION UNLIKELY TO APPEAR
With the exception of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, very little new information has surfaced since Mueller took over the investigation. The information that was gathered last year by eavesdropping on conversations between Russian agents is insufficient to bring to court because it can’t be confirmed. Such intercepts largely dried up after last July, as soon as the federal investigation into emails stolen from the DNC computers went public.
The Obama administration was well aware of the Russian efforts to interfere with the campaign at that time, but it chose not to reveal it to the public or take significant action to punish the Russians for it until after Election Day. That serves to undermine the credibility of current Democrat cries of outrage over still unproven charges that members of the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.
As the investigation enters its second year, it appears unlikely that any “smoking gun” evidence of such collusion will appear, unless one of the targets of the investigation, such as Manafort or Flynn, takes a plea bargain and becomes a witness for the prosecution to avoid being punished for financial crimes unrelated to the election tampering.
The greatest danger that Mueller’s investigation poses to Trump appears to be a political one. His enemies’ best hope is that Mueller’s probe will be successful in finding sufficient evidence to indict Trump in the court of public opinion as a president who deserves to be impeached.
THEN THERE IS WATERS
On Monday, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a darling of the left, weighed in, saying, “I’ve long thought that there was a lot of smoke, even fire. And that everything that I have learned about this president, starting with the campaign itself, that people should have understood that there was something terribly wrong with him.
“As a matter of fact, I’ve said over and over again, I think he’s the most deplorable person I’ve ever met in my life. And I think when you take a look at his allies and some in his cabinet, all these people around him, with connections to the Ukraine or to Russia or to oil, everybody should have known that. We should have moved faster.
“Our Intelligence Committees have not moved fast enough. But I have my hopes for Mueller, as most people do. I think he’s going to connect the dots. And I think we’re nearing a constitutional crisis.”