America had barely a morning to digest dramatic Democrat successes before Donald Trump fired Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, and appointed his Chief of Staff Matt Whitaker, a foe of the Russia probe. Mr Trump’s latest attempt to derail his own prosecution is not going at all well. But rather than recap the many tribulations of Trump’s putative Acting Attorney General – whether Whitaker’s appointment is even legal is being questioned – here are some key points on Mueller’s endgame:
- Mueller’s next indictments may not be for Russian collusion
- Why he may reveal all indictments on the substance over a day or two
- There are dozens of indictments, with the number ranging from 30 to over a hundred
- We report that Trump is indicted, but the indictments we describe are not for collusion with Russia in the election – such indictments may also exist but we have no knowledge of that, either way
- Mike Pence, sources say, will not become President;
- Chatter is that Roger Stone, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump Jr’s time in the barrel is coming, but that chatter has been around for at least one month at time of writing
- Nobody knows when Mueller will release the Red, White And Blue Wave of indictments on the substance (but it will be awesome when he does)
The First Indictments May Not Be for Russian Collusion
We could see Donald J. Trump Jr being indicted for lying to the FBI over the meeting he arranged with Russian Intelligence operative Natalia Vetselkinaya. We might see Tad Devine or Tony Podesta indicted for failing to register under FARA for Ukraine. We might even see Jared Kushner indicted over false declarations on his SF-86, including omitting his attendance at the Trump Tower meeting between Don and the Kremlin, or for lying to the FBI.
Even after initial revisions, the form failed to include a June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya he attended at Trump Tower accompanied by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort.
Mueller’s pattern has been to indict Americans only on these ancillary offenses, and a great many mainstream journalists have taken this to mean that Mueller does not see any collusion with Russia. Blake Hounsell, the editor of Politico, published ‘Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic‘ making this point about every indictment thus far.
As Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, noted after the deal became public, prosecutors usually prefer to charge participants in a conspiracy with charges related to the underlying crime. …Flynn pleaded guilty only to lying to the FBI, which Bharara surmised that might mean Mueller didn’t have much on him
Hounsell later published ‘Why I’m No Longer a Russiagate Skeptic’ but the title did not match the text; in the later piece, he insists again that Trump only *wanted* to collude:
There were certainly sporadic, repeated attempts by some on or around the campaign to collaborate, but we don’t know if, or how, those flirtations were consummated…. We might never get clear evidence that Trump made a secret deal with the Kremlin. It would be great to see his tax returns, and perhaps Mueller has evidence of private collusion that we have yet to see
This is, of course, nonsense that downplays all the public evidence we have so far; Donald Trump Jr met with people billing themselves as coming from the Russian government and offering dirt on Clinton. Jared Kushner asked the Russian Ambassador for a digital ‘backchannel’ inside the Russian embassy while Obama was still President. Carter Page announced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State in Moscow before Trump announced him to America – and he was under a FISA warrant when he did so. The NRA took an extra $100m in cash in the 2016 cycle and gave it to the GOP, with Maria Butina being indicted.
Trump’s children and surrogates colluded with Assange and Wikileaks directly. Erik Prince, Flynn and Kushner arranged a ‘backchannel’ meeting in the Seychelles with a representative of the Russian government. The FBI is continuing to investigate the Trump-Alfa server. The CIA blocked Kushner from a TS/SCI clearance. The ousted KT McFarland wrote to Mike Flynn that Russia had ‘just elected Trump’. All of these things, just the headlines, indeed, illustrate ample collusion with the Russian state. Guccifer 2 was the GRU, using a pun; Trump’s collaboration with Peter Thiel’s MAGA 3X memetic warfare pac, coordinated with the GRU, was openly tweeted; and so on and so forth.
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Hounsell’s tosh about ‘sporadic’ collaboration, some variant of ‘sure they wanted to collaborate, but did they?’ has been everywhere in American media. “Roger Stone Sold Himself To Trump’s Campaign As a Wikileaks Pipeline. Was He?” said the New York Times. “Page hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing”, wrote the Washington Post, after it was known that Carter Page was the subject of a FISA warrant, confirming that a judge agreed Page might be an agent of a foreign power. Clint Watts, a former FBI agent whose expertise was in counterterrorism and not counterintelligence, testified to Congress that Trump was a mere “useful idiot” who had only unwittingly collaborated with Russia.
(In forthcoming days, Patribotics will review the case against Trump, including pointers the mainstream media have omitted to cover.)
Why Won’t Mueller’s First Indictments Be for Russian Collusion? Isn’t That What He’s Looking For? And When Will He Get to the Main Event?
This is much more simple than the ‘because he’s got bupkis’ theory advanced by Mr. Hounsell and co. The indictments for Russian collusion are of Donald Trump and members of his campaign. They were coordinated between members of the campaign staff and the Trump family. Mueller cannot reveal one case on Russian collusion without effectively unsealing many others. It is likely, therefore, that over a single day, or a couple of days, Mueller’s office will reveal all the indictments on the substance in a single day.
How Many Indictments Are There?
Last fall, this blog broke the news that Mueller had ‘dozens of sealed indictments’. This week, John Schindler, speaking to separate intelligence sources – although we do not know who each other’s sources are, his description of his sources does not match the role played by mine – confirmed that Mueller has ‘dozens of sealed indictments’ and I presume that now this has risen to substantively above what I reported. At that time, sources described a touch over two dozen sealed indictments but were not specific. The same sources later said there were ‘plenty more’ after my story was published. Sources did not specify a number. My guess is that it will be close to a hundred, if not more, but the only thing I know for sure is that there are many more indictments than 24, with the language used by sources suggesting at minimum over 30.
Is Donald Trump Indicted For Colluding With Russia?
I am not sure. The at least three counts against him in indictments I report on this blog are not for collusion with Russia in the election, and were obtained either before Mueller was appointed, or just afterwards. One of those is for RICO, with the Trump Organization and Felix Sater over the Bayrock case. The other at least two counts were for an entirely separate offense. While I know what this offense is, sources will not presently allow me to report it; it is not strictly about actions taken with Russia, nor is it a sexual offense.
I would happily bet many imaginary rubles that Mr. Trump will be indicted on some offenses of collusion with Russia – collusion is not a specific crime, but the term covers a whole range crimes committed while colluding, such as espionage, seditious conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, failing to register under FARA, misprision of a felony, election offenses, etc. However, I have no sourcing that Trump is indicted on these charges and am unlikely to get any; the closer we get to showtime, the less sources want to talk.
Trump may be indicted or in trouble for his payoff to Stormy Daniels, a case pursued by Michael Avenatti, but it is unlikely that this would be allowed to interfere with the Russia investigation. Revealing openly that the President can be indicted for such a minor matter – at least in comparison – as paying off a woman with campaign funds – would impact reporting on the more serious sealed indictments against Trump. For that reason I doubt it will happen before the main Russia cases are unsealed – but of course that could be wrong.
Will Mike Pence be President?
Sources said last year that Pence is likely to be indicted on a scandal that happened while he was the Governor of Indiana. They refused to say whether or not he would also be indicted for colluding with Russia, but, last year, these sources said that they did not expect Pence to become President. He would resign, in return for consideration in regards to his case. However, Pence might insist upon it until he is convicted, raising constitutional questions similar to those surrounding Whitaker; could Pence swear the Oath of Office in good faith given what will be revealed about the Trump campaign of which he was a part?
Will Nancy Pelosi become the first woman President?
No, not technically unless she runs for the office. The Constitution mandates that the Speaker of the House becomes Acting President (not President) if both the President and the Vice-President are removed. Speaker Pelosi has said that she does not plan to serve long in her second bite of the Congressional Apple. Trump is expected to fight his impeachment, not because he thinks he can get out of it, sources say, but because it is literally the only play he has left. Impeachment in the House will not be immediate and then the trial in the Senate will take its time. It is possible that Pelosi might succeed as Acting President before 2020, and if not her, then her successor as Speaker.
One very interesting wrinkle in the law as I read it is that the line of succession to the Presidency (after the President Pro Tem of the Senate) is in control of the Democratic House when it comes to impeachment. The line of succession eligible to assume the acting Presidency shall apply……
only to officers not under impeachment by the House of Representatives at the time the powers and duties of the office of President devolve upon them
That would, if I read it correctly, mean that a Democratic House anticipating Trump’s removal after conviction by the Senate could, should Speaker Pelosi not wish to assume the office, impeach others implicated in Russian collusion, such as Pompeo and Mnuchin, without needing their impeachment confirmed by the Senate. The next in line would be Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense.
When Will the Indictments Be Unsealed?
Anybody who claims to know is lying, unless they are suspects and have been directly informed by the FBI or the Office of the Special Counsel. It is clear from public reporting that Don Trump Junior thinks he will be indicted. There has been chatter for some time that an indictment of Roger Stone is forthcoming. As discussed above, these indictments may well not be earth-shattering, but for minor offenses only tangentially related to the Russia investigation. Mueller’s team is prepared for, sources told me last year, ‘at least three years’ of indictments coming not merely for Trump, his three eldest children, Jared Kushner and the rest of his campaign colluders, but also for Americans who knowingly worked with Russia to influence an election. The cost of Mueller’s investigation will be huge.
Mueller is not likely to want to be seen as partisan or as making a statement. If the ‘Red, White, and Blue Wave’ of major Trump Russia indictments does not come very soon, then it must be likely the OSC will hold it until next year. We can expect some major name fireworks from conspirators who are not Americans – look for Julian Assange to be expelled from the Ecuadorean Embassy, and held on no bail in one of Her Majesty’s most unpleasant prisons. For the same reasons as outlined in this piece, the UK’s domestic-facing intelligence service MI5 (James Bond is MI6) is likely to hold back on what they know of Assange’s work with Russia in the first instance, as the details of any espionage prosecution would reveal details of cases and indictments that Mueller is keeping under seal. Sources also say that the proof that Michael Cohen was in Prague is close to being given to journalists trusted by NATO intelligence. We will report more on this in another story.
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