Russia, Russia, Russia
Republicans with close links to the White House increasingly believe that special counsel Robert Mueller is “going for the kill” in his investigation into links between President Donald Trump and Russia
The new report comes just days after Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told CBS’s 60 Minutes that Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, which he called the worst mistake in “modern political history,” led directly to the appointment of Mueller to oversee the investigation.
Mueller’s probe appears to have stepped up in recent weeks. It was reported last month that he had impaneled a federal grand jury in Washington and has issued subpoenas related to a meeting Donald Trump Jr. held with a Russian-government-linked lawyer in June 2016. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were also at the meeting. Last week, Trump Jr. was interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Members of the GOP are said to have come to that stark conclusion based on Mueller’s hiring of lawyers experienced in dealing with money laundering crimes and the Mafia, as well as the intensity of his pursuit of both witnesses and evidence.
Mueller is burrowing in hard on the obstruction of justice angle.
The “angry, meandering“ draft White House justification for firing Comey — which was never released, but obtained by Mueller — could be used as evidence of Trump’s unvarnished thinking when venting to staff.
The investigation’s financial dimensions are worrisome. The focus on Michael Cohen, a Trump lawyer and confidant whose business dealings are intertwined with the president’s, has been particularly troubling for those in Trump’s close orbit. Cohen dealt with some colorful characters. And when plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow are fully picked apart, other questionable Russian characters may be drawn in.
Current and former White House aides caught up in the probe are being advised by their attorneys to tell the truth – even if that might hurt the president.
Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told POLITICO they’re actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won’t protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice.
“What I always tell clients is you can’t protect anybody. You can only hurt yourself,” said a lawyer representing a client involved in the Russia probe. The attorney added that any overt attempts to protect Trump will raise wider suspicions of a cover-up, making matters “worse for everybody.”
“Efforts to concoct a story to protect somebody are almost inevitably doomed to failure,” the attorney explained. “All you do is create liability to yourself that didn’t exist before.”