While pimping yesterday’s “no collusion” lie in the lede, Fox News celebrated Andrew Weissman’s leaving the Justice department and tried to boost speculation on the end of the Mueller investigation, if only because the recent Manafort sentencing.
His departure signals the special counsel investigation is coming to a conclusion, one source told NPR. Weissmann has been a frequent target of conservative legal interest groups and supporters of the president. Author Michael Wolff said former Trump advisor Steve Bannon told him that Weissmann was like “the LeBron James of money laundering investigations.”
Marcy Wheeler begs to differ. The NBA playoffs continue without LeBron.
After each prosecutor has finished their work on the Mueller team, he or she has moved on. Weissmann’s departure is more final, since he’s leaving DOJ. But his departure continues a pattern that was set last summer. Finish your work, and move on.
Nevertheless, his departure is being taken as a surefire sign the Mueller investigation is closing up.
Let me be clear: I do agree Mueller is just about done with the investigation. He’s waiting on Mystery Appellant, possibly on Andrew Miller’s testimony; he may have been waiting on formal publication of Jerome Corsi’s book yesterday. Multiple other details suggest that Mueller expects to be able to share things in a month that he’s unable to share today.
None of that tells us what will happen in the next few weeks. There is abundant evidence that Trump entered into a quid pro quo conspiracy with Russia, trading dirt and dollars for sanctions relief and other policy considerations. But it’s unclear whether Mueller has certainty that he’d have an 85% chance of winning convictions, which is around what he’d need to convince DOJ to charge it. There is also abundant evidence that Trump and others obstructed the investigation, but charging Trump in that presents constitutional questions.
The reality is that unlike Elvis, the money laundering inquiry has not left the building, especially as Deutsche Bank inquiries continue among other Congressional activity.
Adam Schiff: “One of the issues that we are looking at, which the Mueller report may not cover, is whether the Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization,” he continued. “Our predominant concern to my committee is, Was this president—is this president—compromised by a foreign power?”
For his part, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to thank Pelosi for her remarks, despite the strong criticism she had also included.
“I greatly appreciate Nancy Pelosi’s statement against impeachment, but everyone must remember the minor fact that I never did anything wrong,” he wrote.
Some reminders of how the money laundering issue is at the core of Trump activity.
So far, the release of transcripts of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s interviews with the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary committees have provided rich detail to obsessives but few major headlines for the average reader. The interviews give some more clarity on how Fusion came to investigate Donald Trump; who was paying the company; and how it gathered information, but they offer much help in assessing the Trump dossier.
Perhaps the most interesting thread is Simpson’s suggestion that the Trump Organization could have been used by Russians to launder money—an arrangement that would have both allowed Kremlin-linked figures to scrub cash and would have created possible blackmail material over the now-president, since the Russian government would be aware that a crime had been committed.
But even if Trump has no memory of the many deals that he and his business made with Russian investors, he certainly did not “stay away” from Russia. For decades, he and his organization have aggressively promoted his business there, seeking to entice investors and buyers for some of his most high-profile developments. Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.
If Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russiagate, pulls the right threads, what might unravel is the underside of the tangled financial and real-estate empire owned by Donald Trump, his two sons, his daughter Ivanka, and the person who could be the weakest, most vulnerable link in that chain: Jared Kushner, his son-in-law. All five could face criminal charges—and for President Trump, impeachment proceedings. The first thread to pull on, hard, is the skulduggery surrounding the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a group of Russians with ties to Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, and a direct line to Vladimir Putin.