Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Mueller Investigation Enters Year Two

With the Mueller investigation now entering its second year, two questions need to be answered: One, where will all this end up? In other words, what are the odds that Mueller will find evidence of collusion, obstruction and / or money laundering and, more importantly, what will he do about it? Two, if Mueller's investigation turns up anything criminal involving Trump, will it make any difference to his supporters?

With respect to question one, it's still too early to tell, but based on the 22 indictments Mueller has handed down - including four to members of Trump's campaign - it's clear where he's headed. The latest revelation that Michael Cohen apparently had a slush fund that received monies from an American company with ties to a Russian oligarch makes it clear that a money laundering charge remains a real possibility.

I wrote in an earlier piece that Trump's real concern isn't collusion or even obstruction; it's money laundering. He's terrified that the country might find out that most of his revenue comes from Russian oligarchs with close ties to Putin. Such a disclosure would ruin him, not just politically, but financially, which is really the only thing he cares about.

If Mueller does indeed find sufficient evidence that Trump is guilty of one or all of the above, I believe he'll go to his boss Rod Rosenstein and inform him that he's moving forward with an indictment or  indictments. Naturally he knows, as does Rosenstein, what that would mean politically. A sitting president has never been indicted, much less convicted, of a crime. But Mueller isn't concerned with the present. Assuming he isn't impeached, a given considering how spineless this Republican-controlled Congress is, Mueller knows that Trump is safe so long as he's in office.

The problem for Trump is that he won't be in office forever. At some point - be it 2021 or 2025 - he will become a private citizen and he'll be held accountable for any criminal offenses he may have committed while president. However, only if the statute of limitations - which is five years for most federal crimes - hasn't run out. If Mueller indicts him while he's president, the clock ostensibly stops ticking, thus allowing a future prosecutor to finish the work he started.

Do you really think Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon because he was a nice guy or that he was looking to end America's long suffering nightmare? Spare me. He knew what Nixon had done and he also knew that a lengthy and messy criminal investigation was a very real possibility. He issued the pardon because he didn't want the sordid details to be aired in public. He was wrong and the reason we know this is because we now have a president in the Oval Office who makes Nixon look like George Washington and who believes he can't be touched. And for that we have Ford to thank.

So, yes, if Mueller finds sufficient grounds to indict, I do believe he will move forward.

As regards to the second question - will any of this make a difference to Trump supporters? - that depends on what we mean by Trump supporter. It's clear that among his core supporters, nothing will change their minds. This is a witch hunt by the deep state to depose a democratically elected president. Case closed.

But there's no way Trump gets elected on the strength of just his core supporters. The reason he's in the White House is because he managed to get a lot of blue-collar Democrats to vote for him. And while most of those voters still hold a favorable impression of him, they are by no means locked in. If Mueller makes a compelling case that Trump is guilty of collusion, obstruction or worse, I think a lot of those voters will flee him like passengers fleeing a sinking ship.

Trump knows this. That's why he's panicking. It's also why his sycophants are going to any lengths to discredit the investigation. When he was first appointed by Rosenstein, Mueller was hailed by conservatives as being fair and thorough. Now many of those very same conservatives are calling for his head. Gee, I wonder why.

While we still don't know where this investigation will end up, based on what we know of Mueller, it would be a YUGE mistake for anyone to underestimate him. He will look under every rock and explore any and all leads in his pursuit of the truth. Trump can obfuscate and misdirect all he wants; he can send Rudy Giuliani to do all the cable news interviews he wants; in the end it won't make a bit of difference. The court of public opinion will not decide this case; the law will.

The bottom line is this: Donald Trump is in for the fight of his life against an adversary that won't be intimidated or deterred. Sean Hannity can't save him any more than the ghost of Roy Cohn can.

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