Every time someone starts talking as if the special counsel investigation is nearing its end , fresh concerns, witnesses, and crimes seem to appear. And now The Daily Beast is reporting that Robert Mueller’s investigation might be moving to a whole new area. Literally.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.
Robert Mueller’s initial instructions were to conduct an investigation confined to “any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” However, the writ that Rod Rosenstein provided for the special counsel also notes that his authority includes “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).” That would be the law defining the jurisdiction of special counsels, which also includes instructions on how the special counsel can seek additional jurisdiction if the office that it “is necessary in order to fully investigate and resolve the matters assigned, or to investigate new matters that come to light in the course of his or her investigation.
It’s clear that Mueller did seek such an expansion of jurisdiction at least once. This document came to light as part of the special counsel’s response to efforts by Paul Manafort to have charges against him dismissed on the ground that Mueller had exceeded his jurisdiction. In the response, Mueller provided a heavily redacted four page letter, two paragraphs of which explicitly authorize Mueller to follow up matters related to Manafort’s money-laundering and his actions in Ukraine. What the rest of that letter authorizes Mueller to investigate is still not known. It’s also not known whether Rosenstein extended Mueller’s authority on any other occasions.
Both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner have been deeply connected to regimes in the Middle East through their businesses and in the dealings they’ve made since taking office. The possibility that Robert Mueller might reveal just why Trump has been ready to look the other way for brutal murder and nation-on-nation extortion may be about to hit the headlines.
Donald Trump has made it clear in the past that he considered any look into his business dealings to be crossing a “red line,” but it’s equally clear that Mueller has ignored that threat and looked at the Trump Organization books, at least as they related to the Moscow Project and Trump’s illegal actions in covering up his affairs.
If in the process of looking at those matters, Mueller came across ties between Trump and Saudi Arabia or others, it seems extremely reasonable that some of his team could have been assigned to tracking down those connections. In fact, one member of Mueller’s team is Zainab Ahmad, a specialist in counterterrorism whose work has concentrated on the Middle East and Africa. Ahmad signed off on the sentencing document for Michael Flynn last week — which seems like an odd pairing … unless Flynn spilled some campaign beans on people who had Trump’s attention outside of Russia.
The Daily Best expressly indicates that Flynn was “involved in conversations with representatives and influential individuals from other foreign governments, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.” If some of those connections were related to why Trump is so ready to look the other way on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, or so supportive of efforts by the Saudis and UAE to blockade Qatar, they might actually be far more vital to the concerns of the United States than anything Trump was doing in Moscow hotel rooms.
If Mueller’s investigation is “going global” it’s unlikely to finish up any time soon. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have to wait until the last nation is accounted for before more indictments roll in. After all, Donald Trump Jr can can tell all about his visits to Trump golf courses in the Middle East from the plush surroundings of a federal penitentiary.
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