Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s decision to personally go after Trump for possible criminal acts and obstruction of justice has marked a turning point in the Russia collusion investigation, which until recently has only focused on Russia’s meddling into the 2016 presidential election.
Now – Mueller has issued subpoenas of President Trump’s personal bank accounts, along with his phone records. Since it’s an official court order, refusal to comply can result in contempt of court charge, punishable by jail, a fine, or both.
The move is expected to put Trump’s personal finances under a microscope. So far, Trump has been the only president in recent history to refuse to divulge his tax returns. The expanding probe is likely to reveal a ton of dirt from the president’s financial past.
UPDATE: Shortly after this was announced, CNN reported that Mueller is also closely investigating Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s finances, in addition to other Trump associates.
Aides close to the president indicated he’s “furious,” and is threatening to fire Mueller. Trump doesn’t believe Mueller is conducting an impartial investigation of him and accused Mueller of conducting a “witch hunt.” Everyone close to the president is strongly advising against the move, and say that it would prompt a “nuclear bomb” to go off in Washington, making Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice that much more likely.
Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, even shot down Trump’s suggestion saying in effect that he would ignore Trump if he’s given the order to terminate Mueller.
“As long as I’m in this position, he’s not going to be fired without good cause,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders,” he added, emphasizing that the attorney general “actually does not know what we’re investigating.”
But – that’s the thing – Trump is working hard to find “good cause.” He has accused members of Mueller’s ever growing team of donating to Democrats in the past. He even tried to connect Comey with Mueller by saying they had a personal relationship with one another because they worked together at one point in the past.
Mueller has added a whole host of financial experts experienced in complex fraud and international bribery cases, including Andrew Weissmann, criminal law expert Michael Dreeban, and Justice Department trial attorney Lisa Page. If Trump has something to hide, they are sure to find them.
So far the investigation has been guarded in secrecy but we do know that Mueller met up with Senate-Russia investigators on Wednesday afternoon in a secure room – the first time they have met since Mueller has headed the probe.
And, we also know that there’s one particular exchange that Mueller is placing an enormous amount of interest in. That’s concerning a conversation Trump had with Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump asked everyone to leave the room except those two and personally asked him if he could intervene with Comey to get the FBI to back off its investigation of Michael Flynn. Then a day or two after that Trump called both of them asking them to issue public statements saying there was no coordination, even though the investigation was ongoing.
Right now the White House is remaining quiet, referring all questions to Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz. Instead of addressing the merits of the investigation, Kasowitz and his firm are instead focusing on the leaks coming out of the FBI. It’s an unusual legal defense.
“The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz.
In a further blow to the White House, it also doesn’t look like they will be able to invoke executive privilege in regards to the president’s personal conversations with his subordinates. Experts rightly point out that the Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue and officials cannot use privilege when it involves a criminal case.
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