After investigating the possible Trump-Russia conspiracy, Mueller might finally have time to figure out once and for all if Paul McCartney is dead.
You say you want a prosecution: Mueller impanels grand juries as Quibbl painfully forces Beatles references and painstakingly tracks the special counsel’s progress
By Jake Klawans with Ben Purcell
Bob the (case) builder?
We already outlined Mueller’s mission, but the special counsel just escalated his endeavor – and taught most of us a new verb – by impanelling a second grand jury, a step that allows him to issue subpoenas and make indictments as he probes possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Grand juries are typically kept secret, and the report quickly triggered another round of panicked commentary around DC and the media. In response to the grand jury revelation, the Trump administration continues to claim that Mueller has nothing. And though Kellyanne Conway refuted stories that the President was considering firing the former FBI director, some in the Senate are trying to protect Mueller anyway, just in case. Either way, let’s delve into the details, bring you up to speed and predict what’s going to happen next.
- Grand Jury Duty: The 23 grand jurors are selected from a cross section of the DC population. The grand jury has two tasks: to hear evidence as part of an investigation and to issue indictments if they see reasonable or probable cause. It’s critical to remember that Grand Jury investigations are secret.
- Still AG: Trump publicly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation and Washington came out in force to support the embattled Alabaman. Commentators across conservative media went all out to support the attorney.
- Too Many Chiefs?: “The Mooch,” we hardly knew ye. Anthony Scaramucci was introduced as communications director a few weeks ago, and his arrival accelerated the departures of Trump originals Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus. Scaramucci proceeded to melt down on the phone with The New Yorker (who hasn’t?); shortly thereafter, Trump hired a new White House Chief of Staff– former Marine general John Kelly, who promptly fired The Mooch.
- Bobby’s Buddies: Mueller might be friends with to be friends with anyone on the grand jury. But Mueller has impaneled a Grand Jury indicating that he does have some form of evidence indicating problematic conduct on the part of one or more members of the Trump campaign
- Senate Support: A bipartisan movement in the Senate seeks to pass legislation to protect Robert Mueller and the integrity of the investigation. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are expected to introduce legislation that would block President from removing the current Special Counsel.
- Roughing up Russia: Last week the Senate passed legislation by a vote of 97-2 which stops President Trump from loosening sanctions on the Russian government. The landslide margin forced the Executive to sign the law, but in doing so he added that he considers the act problematic, expressing his view that it contains “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.”
This Week’s Commentary
- Jessica Levinson at Loyola Law School had this to say about the significance of Mueller’s grand jury:
The fact that a grand jury has been impaneled means that Robert Mueller’s investigation is progressing, and perhaps widening, as there is already a grand jury looking at allegations related to [former National Security Adviser] Michael Flynn. It does not mean that anyone has been criminally indicted. It means they have chosen a group of citizens to continue to look into the investigation of election interference. It also likely means that Mueller is in the point in the investigation in which he will begin to subpoena documents and obtain testimony from witnesses under oath.
- The grand jury news prompted Matthew Whitaker, a CNN legal commentator and former US attorney, to caution that the Mueller investigation is at risk of becoming too expansive and expensive:
According to a CNN article, Mueller’s investigators could be looking into financial records relating to the Trump Organization that are unrelated to the 2016 election. According to these reports, “sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 election.” The piece goes on to cite law enforcement sources who say non-Russia-related leads that “involve Trump associates” are being referred to the special counsel “to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.” This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.
- In the Washington Post, Amber Phillips writes that while Trump advocates correctly point out that grand juries are normal for serious investigations (as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie did again Sunday on CNN), the existence of the grand juries is still a sign that there is evidence of misconduct and that the investigation is in fact not a big “nothingburger’
The president’s defenders, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), point out that grand juries are a normal process of any investigation. But implicit in that statement: It’s a normal process of any serious investigation. If there really was nothing to see here, as Trump claims, Mueller’s team won’t need to keep digging. And it suggests they had enough evidence to convince a federal judge to okay the grand jury. As Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN on Sunday: “[R]ather than turning that investigation off, rather than concluding, we have looked at this for a year, there’s really nothing to see here, as the president would claim, instead, if these allegations are true, it’s moving into a new phase.”
- Twitter Watch
- The new Chief of Staff John Kelly is apparently trying to clamp down on Trump’s twitter. However, previous efforts have failed to achieve radio silence. Will we have another Trump tweetstorm (two or more controversial tweets requiring CNN coverage) in the next week? Quibbl here
- Swan Song for Kellyanne?
- Kellyanne Conway could get her pink slip any day now. While the consensus has moved on concerning the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation she’s still insisting that nothing happened. Will Kellyanne be fired in the next week? Quibbl here
- Senate Support
- There is bipartisan support in the Senate to restrict Trump’s power to interfere with the grand jury investigation. Will the Senate vote to take away Trump’s ability to fire Mueller in the next month? Quibbl here
- Leakers Beware
- Trump, Sessions, and Kelly are now trying focus on getting rid of any and all leakers. Will Trump try to sue anyone as a leaker in the next month or will this refrain continue? Quibbl here
- Kelly Clock
- Kelly and Trump certainly have conflicting personalities. Kelly is a career public servant and Trump has a history of clashing with those not from the private sector. Will Kelly resign as Chief of Staff within the next two months? Quibbl here