Republicans insisted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller stay quiet during the months before the election. But some sources are suggesting that silence will be broken very, very soon.
While there really is no rule requiring that Mueller go silent in an election where none of the people he is investigating are actually on the ballot, he has been scrupulous about not issuing new indictments or revealing court documents following the September guilty plea of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. The only indictments related to the case that have come along since then have been aimed at Russians, and even that came not from Mueller but from US attorneys outside of this task force.
But once the last polls close tonight, you can expect movement on two fronts. First, Trump will waste no time collecting on promises from Republican senators that he can now fire attorney general Jefferson Sessions. Second, Mueller is likely to unseal indictments that have been waiting in courthouses along the East Coast for this very special day.
As Vanity Fair reports, insiders believe they know where some of those indictments are aimed. For months now, Mueller has been interviewing everyone connected to Trump campaign adviser and professional dirty trickster Roger Stone. Stone, whose lying is so consistent that friends have suggested that he use his lying as an alibi (i.e. all those Russian and WikiLeaks connections he bragged about were just more of his endless lies) , is almost a lock for a hefty multi-count indictment. But it’s the other names on Mueller’s list that are likely to generate more attention.
“I’m very worried about Don Jr.,” said another former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It’s clear that Trump Jr. lied to both the Senate committee and to investigators when it comes to his Russia contacts and the cover-up of his Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives. Whether Mueller believes that those lies merit charges of conspiracy and obstruction … we’ll soon find out.
And of course even the fate of Trump Jr. is just an appetizer. The main course is the report that Mueller will prepare for the Department of Justice about Trump’s activities. That’s the report that, in a just world, would land in front of Democratically controlled House some time next year as America gets a real look at what Trump knew, when he knew it, and how he contributed to the problem.
But there’s an all too real chance we could all go hungry.
The indictments against Stone and Trump Jr. could happen at any time, and could realistically appear this week. However, that’s not true of any charges against Trump.
Mueller has demonstrated over and over that he intends to follow the guidelines of the Justice Department, even when those guidelines are as vaguely drawn as the ones that kept him quiet over the last few weeks. That means it’s unlikely that Mueller will actually seek to indict Trump before the grand jury … though that definitely could happen. Instead, Mueller will list the evidence against Trump in a report to the DOJ. Right now, that report would go to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Tomorrow, that could be different.
If Trump replaces either Sessions or Rosenstein, the next in line to take over the Russia investigation is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Theoretically, Francisco would have to immediately recuse himself from that role, because he worked for the same law firm that currently represents Trump in the Russia investigation. But the news that Francisco already has a waiver dealing specifically with that issue suggests that Team Trump is prepared to move quickly to shake up the investigation.
Once he’s in control, Francisco would be empowered to do anything—including limiting the scope of the investigation, requiring that Mueller ignore certain areas of investigation, or simply shutting the whole thing down. On the other side of the coin, Mueller has shown himself adept at working with both other federal and state officials to generate charges and trials that carried on even when he was out of the picture. It could even be that Mueller has planned for this eventuality with announcements and sealed indictments that are ready to pop should the ax come down.
We do not know.
Only one thing is certain—just because the election is over tonight, doesn’t mean the news is going to slow down.