Friday, August 4, 2017

Russian To Judgment, Con't

More on last night's Mueller grand jury investigation news, last night of course the WSJ confirmed that the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign had empaneled a grand jury to look at a wide range of evidence related to the Russian collusion investigation.  Other news outlets running after this story have released additional information now, and together it paints a pretty grim picture for Trump and company.  First, CNN confirms that the grand jury is looking into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian nationals in June of 2016 and has issued subpoenas.

Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, according to a person familiar with the matter. 
The subpoena seeks both documents and testimony from people involved in the meeting, CNN has learned. That meeting has drawn scrutiny since an email exchange beforehand indicated the Russians offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton. 
Mueller's grand jury activity was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters
Mueller's team of investigators continue to look into whether President Donald Trump or any of his campaign associates colluded with Russia during the presidential contest.

Ahh, but there's more from CNN.

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation. James Comey, in his Senate testimony, said the FBI opened an investigation into Trump campaign-Russia connections in July 2016. The strands of the two investigations began to merge. 
In the months that followed, investigators turned up intercepted communications appearing to show efforts by Russian operatives to coordinate with Trump associates on damaging Hillary Clinton's election prospects, officials said. CNN has learned those communications included references to campaign chairman Paul Manafort

That's a big one, folks.  Manafort again was Trump's campaign chairman in 2016.

Even before Mueller was appointed, FBI investigators focused on four Trump associates: Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman, Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, Carter Page, cited by Trump as a national security adviser, and Roger Stone, a Trump friend and supporter who openly engaged with hackers calling themselves Guccifer 2.0, which US intelligence says was an online persona created as a cover for Russian intelligence agents. 
The approach to the Manafort and Flynn probes may offer a template for how investigators' focus on possible financial crimes could help gain leverage and cooperation in the investigation. 
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians. 
Manafort faces potential real troubles in the probe, according to current and former officials. Decades of doing business with foreign regimes with reputations for corruption, from the Philippines to Ukraine, had led to messy finances
The focus now for investigators is whether Manafort was involved in money laundering or tax violations in his business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine. He's also been drawn into a related investigation of his son-in-law's real estate business dealings, some of which he invested in. 

The Trumpies will no doubt tell you that the focus on finances means that the collusion case can't be proven.  As I say, the Feds eventually got Al Capone on tax evasion.

Oh, and the CNN story ends thusly:

Page had been the subject of a secret intelligence surveillance warrant since 2014, earlier than had been previously reported, US officials briefed on the probe told CNN.

No big deal.  The government had a FISA warrant on Carter Page for two years before the Trump campaign hired him, nice.

And that brings us to this: The bigger point is that grand juries don't happen if there's no charges to be brought.  The Mueller investigation is moving inexorably forward, and they are issuing subpoenas (Reuters too backs up the CNN subpoena story.)

Again though this case will take months, if not years.  There's a lot here, there's a lot of evidence to examine that we don't know about yet, but the grand jury will have access to it all.  But the train is moving forward and somewhere down the line will be the decision to seek indictments against Trump campaign officials.  We're most likely very far from that point. 

But just six months into this administration and we're already at the grand jury stage.  Things may not be moving as fast as we'd like, but they are moving, deliberately, inexorably, and inevitably forward, towards one Donald J. Trump.

Count on it.

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