Abramson: Trump/Russia events now set to "explode"

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UNH931 / Wikimedia Commons seth abramson...
UNH931 / Wikimedia Commons

As you probably know, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a new Grand Jury to deal with his Trump/Russia investigation. Law Professor Seth Abramson has been all over this beat since the beginning, and explains exactly what it means, and what to expect, in one of his amazing tweetstorms. I’ve added a few comments of my own.

(1) First, here's the Breaking News from CNBC on the announcement of a new grand jury in the Russia investigation: https://t.co/i4U0zqQ954

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(3) So we can now accurately say there are *multiple* federal grand juries investigating possible crimes by President Trump and his aides.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(5) An *investigative* grand jury might be active for many months, whereas a (state-level) conventional grand jury usually sits for a month.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(7) At the state level, criminal investigation is usually nearly completed by the time a grand jury hears a case, so indictments come fast.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(9) Indictments aren't proof of anything. They just mean a bare-minimum threshold of evidence has been reached, so a charge can be brought.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(11) A federal grand jury is more commonly an investigate body whose existence helps prosecutors get documents and witnesses for their case.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(13) The impaneling of a grand jury in the Russia probe was inevitable given that (as I/others have said) it's clear crimes were committed.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(15) If anything, Mueller taking this long to impanel a grand jury means that he's being *incredibly deliberative* about this investigation.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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N.B. Here and below, Abramson assumes (as many have) that that the Grand Jury is newly impaneled; however, a Reuters report indicates that the GJ has been active for some weeks, and the news is just coming out now. This may be because the GJ has been issuing subpoenas.

(17) It's very easy to get an indictment, as only the prosecutor is in the room (no defense) and grand jurors can ask their own questions.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(19) So a prosecutor can use grand jury proceedings to subpoena documents that aren't being given voluntarily or force witnesses to testify.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(21) Grand jury witnesses are under oath, so they can't pull a Kushner and say they'll only testify privately and unsworn. So: new ballgame.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(23) More importantly, he can at his leisure secure indictments against any Russiagate figure against whom he has probable cause of a crime.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(25) Probable cause isn't a "more likely than not [defendant] committed the crime" standard. It's a "reasonable basis to believe" standard.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(27) "Probable cause" is a *lower* standard than that which most legal analysts say Mueller has already crossed with respect to those 3 men.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(29) But as flight isn't an issue (Trump won't run) and this is a very public case, Mueller likely did *not* move to a GJ to get Trump now.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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FARA is the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It requires anyone acting as an agent for a foreign government to register with the Feds. It seems quite likely that both Kushner and Flynn violated that law.

(31) CNN is also reporting Mueller may see some "low-hanging fruit" (easy/easy-ish indictments) with respect to Manafort, Kushner and Flynn.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(33) By comparison, the most Mueller can do as to Trump is refer indictments to the DOJ, which the DOJ then refers for possible impeachment.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(35) So does this grand jury impaneling mean someone will *definitely* get indicted? No. Can you indict *without* a grand jury? No.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(37) Forcing Kushner, Manafort, and others to testify creates a catch-22: either these men perjure themselves, confess, or plead the Fifth.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(39) So this newly impaneled grand jury is *every* bit as likely to *create* new crimes (i.e., perjury) as uncover and/or indict older ones.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(41) This D.C. grand jury is a *daily threat* to Trump. Mueller can act, secretly, to indict Trump sons/aides on major felonies at any time.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(43) The DOJ reg appointing Mueller asks him to make one report to DOJ when his work is done, not issue piecemeal indictments against Trump.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(45) There are serious penalties for grand jurors leaking, but witnesses asked to testify/produce docs do speak publicly on those demands.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(47) Here's what we should assume: a) Mueller will find every piece of incriminating evidence he wants *or* any attempt to destroy evidence.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(49) c) America will soon learn what attorneys have long known: many of those "misstatements" that passed as "politics" will now be crimes.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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(50) d) The pace of Russia news, Russia leaks and White House response (including possible action against Mueller) will now *explode*. {end}

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 3, 2017

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So, just what does “explode” mean, in Abramson’s terms? The pace of events will accelerate bigly, but if you’re hoping for a quick end, well, don’t hold your breath. Instead, take a look at yet another S.A. thread today, regarding just how many things will have to happen, and in what order.

TL/DR: This is Phase 2 (out of ten), and Phase 2 is the longest phase. Impeachment is Phase 9.

Will the Russia probe end Trump's presidency? Yes. But as I and other attorneys have been saying from the start, it'll take 12 to 18 months.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(3) Phase 2 also involves procurement of hard-to-access (rather than voluntarily submitted) financial documents from the U.S. and overseas.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(5) Phase 4 is either the use of testimony from these indicted figures, now cooperating individuals, to indict Trump, or to outline a case.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(7) Phase 5 is what DOJ chooses to do with Mueller's report, in what timeframe and at whose direction at Main Justice (Brand or Rosenstein).

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(9) Phase 7 is the impeachment vote in the House, Phase 8 the trial for possible conviction in the Senate. Phase 9, the *aftermath* of that.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(11) Conspiracy theorists like Mensch said we'd be in "Phase 4" by *March*. It is August and we are in Phase 2. The difference is *huge*.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(13) But a bigger issue has been mainstream pundits who misled on standards of proof, elements of offense and common prosecutorial practice.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(15) Things will get *very* hairy, legally speaking, and very soon. So everyone must find sources *with legal knowledge* to rely upon. {end}

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(PS2) Fair warning: if you're looking for a criminal attorney on Twitter who'll let people BS on criminal law and say nothing, it ain't me.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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(PS4) In answer to the queries: that's "12 to 18 months" from the day of Mueller's appointment to impeachment. Phase 2 is the longest phase.

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 4, 2017

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So yeah, it’ll be a while. Personally, I think it happens when 19 Senate Republicans realize that they’d much rather have Pence in the White House. And with the recent Jeff Flake op-ed, I suspect that we’re already halfway there.


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