White House braces for first actions in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe
Washington: Charges possible on Monday against one or more people will be the first public glimpse into special counsel Robert Mueller’s six-month probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by Donald Trump’s campaign.
The potential spectacle threatens to overshadow a big week for the president, as he prepares to end weeks of suspense by naming a new chair of the Federal Reserve, and embarks Friday on an 11-day trip to Asia.
Multiple reports say at least one person’s been charged and could be arrested as early as Monday morning. It wasn’t clear who the first target will be, what the charges are, and what happens next in the investigation headed by the former FBI director. Trump, meanwhile, fired off a string of testy tweets Sunday morning.
The White House insisted it’s not worried, but the tweets—about Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s email, and a years-old uranium deal—suggested the news had the president’s full attention.
“There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out,” Trump told his 41 million Twitter followers. “DO SOMETHING!” It was unclear who, if anyone, the president was rallying to action.
Hours later, a White House official insisted that there’s “zero anxiety” among the president and his advisers about what might be contained in the sealed grand jury documents and what might be coming next.
The Russia probe hasn’t been a significant topic of discussion, said the official, who’s familiar with the process but wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about internal matters. There have been modest internal discussions about the process, the official said, with staff reminded to refer any questions to White House attorneys.
The person or persons facing charges in Mueller’s probe may be identified as soon as Monday morning if they’re arraigned in court. Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He was hired by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
“The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, adding that Republicans “are now fighting back like never before.”
Minutes before the president’s Twitter flurry, former US attorney Preet Bharara said on CNN’s State of the Union that people should watch Trump’s response to any charges.
“I would look for a couple of things, one, whether or not Donald Trump has some reaction and talks in a way that could be used against him in the future, because Bob Mueller would do that,” Bharara said.
“The second thing I would look at is to see if the president of the United States is sending some kind of message to the potential defendant or other witnesses,” he said. Whether the president plans to pardon people facing charges should be watched “very, very closely,” said Bharara.
Rhetoric on all sides has been stepped up recently, with the Wall Street Journal last week calling on Mueller to step down. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican who has advised Trump, on Sunday stopped short of demanding a resignation, but signalled that the prosecutor is being watched.
“He has to be very, very careful about making sure that the public believes that he has no conflicts and that his integrity is unquestioned,” Christie said on CNN.
Anticipating Monday’s possible actions, representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said it would be “important whether or not this indictment involves 15-year-old business transactions or 15-day-old conversations with Russia.”
“It’s really important what the charge is. It’s really important who the person being charged is,” Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said on Fox News Sunday.
In his tweets, Trump revisited concerns about a uranium deal with Russia that occurred while Clinton was secretary of state, as well as emails sent by Clinton from a private server located in her home, which were the focus of an FBI investigation that ended in 2016 with no charges.
Trump also wrote about the secret dossier on him that was paid for by Democrats. “All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!” Trump said.
Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat who was a federal and state prosecutor before becoming the governor of Michigan, said on CNN that the move by Trump and congressional Republicans to pivot back to Clinton, the uranium deal and other issues were an effort to distract from Mueller’s probe.
“If someone was doing consistently things to throw people off the trail, if they were attacking, of course, the investigator, it’s all evidence of a state of mind—a guilty state of mind,” Granholm said. Bloomberg