Saturday, July 7, 2018

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Another week, another recap of the Mueller investigation into Donald Trump's collusion and corruption, and while the Trump regime keeps claiming that the Mueller probe will be over any tie now and that the pressure is on the special counsel to wrap up "or else", in fact just the opposite is true.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tapping additional Justice Department resources for help with new legal battles as his year-old investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 election continues to expand.

As Mueller pursues his probe, he’s making more use of career prosecutors from the offices of U.S. attorneys and from Justice Department headquarters, as well as FBI agents -- a sign that he may be laying the groundwork to hand off parts of his investigation eventually, several current and former U.S. officials said.

Mueller and his team of 17 federal prosecutors are coping with a higher-than-expected volume of court challenges that has added complexity in recent months, but there’s no political appetite at this time to increase the size of his staff, the officials said.

According to his most recent statement of expenditures, more money is being spent on work done by permanent Department of Justice units than on Mueller’s own dedicated operation. The DOJ units spent $9 million from the investigation’s start in May 2017 through March of this year, compared with $7.7 million spent by Mueller’s team.

Mueller’s probe has come under attack from President Donald Trump and his allies who say it’s going on too long, expanding too far and costing too much. But the special counsel’s charter, issued by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, includes investigating whether Trump or associates colluded with Russia and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Investigators in New York; Alexandria, Virginia; Pittsburgh and elsewhere have been tapped to supplement the work of Mueller’s team, the officials said. Mueller has already handed off one major investigation -- into Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen -- to the Southern District of New York.

“Whatever you got, finish it the hell up because this country is being torn apart,” Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told Rosenstein during a June 28 hearing. Rosenstein said Mueller knows he must move expeditiously.

A heavy investigative load for Mueller had been anticipated from the start, the officials said. The special counsel has already issued 20 indictments and secured guilty pleas from five individuals, and some of the defendants are mounting stiffer-than-expected battles in court.

So no, the Mueller investigation is not "wrapping up soon" and while it would make political sense to do so before the November elections, it looks very much like the Mueller team is setting up multiple parallel investigations in case Trump starts ordering firings, something that is becoming increasingly likely as we get closer to the midterm contests on November 6.

As such, the Trump regime is laying down a new strategy to "work the refs" on public opinion by throwing down the gauntlet before Mueller's feet.

President Trump’s lawyers set new conditions on Friday on an interview with the special counsel and said that the chances that the president would be voluntarily questioned were growing increasingly unlikely.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, needs to prove before Mr. Trump would agree to an interview that he has evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer in the case.

His declaration was the latest sign that the president’s lawyers, who long cooperated quietly with the inquiry even as their client attacked it, have shifted to an openly combative stance.

Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that Mr. Mueller was unlikely to agree to the interview demands. Mr. Mueller could subpoena Mr. Trump to answer questions if he does not agree to voluntarily sit for an interview. Mr. Giuliani left open the possibility that the president, who has said in the past that he would be eager to sit down with the special counsel, would still agree to be interviewed.

Mr. Giuliani appeared to be in part trying to shift responsibility onto the special counsel for the lengthy negotiations over an interview — and was most likely prolonging them himself.

“If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview. He urged the special counsel to wrap up his inquiry and write an investigative report. He said Mr. Trump’s lawyers planned to write their own summary of the case.

Can you imagine any other time where the subject of an investigation said "Show us all your evidence before we agree to cooperate" and wasn't laughed out of the halls of justice?  Me either, but this is where Trump, who clearly now believes that he not only is above the law, but is the law itself, thinks he is and thinks he has the power to use.

If Mueller is going to continue, then Trump will simply do what he does best: make up his own reality and tell the media to report it as such or lose access to the White House.  They've been playing along for 18 months now, and nothing makes me think anything will be different. Rudy's "summary of the case" will become the new narrative going forward, and tens of millions will believe Trump, confirming that the Mueller probe is "over".

It's far from over, as Trump will discover to his own detriment.

Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller intend to present evidence at the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that a banking executive allegedly helped Manafort obtain loans of approximately $16 million while the banker sought a role in the Trump campaign. 
Manafort faces trial on bank fraud and other financial charges in the Eastern District of Virginia beginning July 25. Until now, there had been no indication that his role in the Trump campaign would become part of the trial, and he had asked the judge to keep details about his ties to President Donald Trump out of the trial. Prosecutors say any alleged collusion with the Russian government won't come up at the trial. 
The allegation of a possible quid pro quo came amid several court filings Friday as both sides count down the remaining weeks until the trial. While prosecutors filled in the Trump campaign details, Manafort's team was busy filing requests with the judge to move his trial location and date, to look into possible leaks from the prosecutors and to keep Manafort out of the public eye. 
"The government intends to present evidence that although various Lender D employees identified serious issues with the defendant's loan application, the senior executive at Lender D interceded in the process and approved the loan," according to the filing from Mueller's team. 
The bank executive "expressed interest in working on the Trump campaign, told (Manafort) about his interest, and eventually secured a position advising the Trump campaign," the filing said. The unnamed man "expressed an interest in serving in the administration of President Trump, but did not secure such a position." 
While the senior executive is unnamed in this filing, in a previous court filing prosecutors identified Lender D as The Federal Savings Bank. 
"Here, it would be difficult for the jury to understand why the loans were approved without understanding that the lender approved the loans, in spite of the identified deficiencies, because the senior executive factored in his own personal ambition," prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Not all of the Trump money laundering scheme leads to Russia, but following the money will lead you a lot of places where Trump doesn't want to revisit, and Mueller knows it.  The Manafort trial gets underway in less than three weeks, and it's going to be nothing but daily bad news for Trump.  Both sides know it.

Stay Tuned.

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