Mueller Tells Guy Who Legally Can’t Be a Target That He’s Not a Target, Perhaps in a Bid to Make Him Legally Targetable

The WaPo has a fascinating report describing that Robert Mueller informed Trump’s lawyers “in early March” that he doesn’t consider Trump a target in his investigation. That news made Trump even more determined to sit for an interview with Mueller, a decision which some of Trump’s less appropriate lawyers seem to have supported. That’s what led John Dowd to quit on March 22 (which would presumably have been two weeks or so later).

John Dowd, Trump’s top attorney dealing with the Mueller probe, resigned last month amid disputes about strategy and frustration that the president ignored his advice to refuse the special counsel’s request for an interview, according to a Trump friend.

Of course, as many people have pointed out, a sitting President can’t be indicted. NYCSouthpaw pointed to the appropriate section of the US Attorney’s Manual, which states that, “A ‘target’ is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.”

If Trump, as President, can’t be indicted, then he can’t be a putative defendant. So he’ll never be a target so long as he remains President. Dowd is likely the only lawyer on Trump’s team who has enough defense experience to understand that this should offer the President zero assurance at all.

He left when the other, ill-suited attorneys refused to believe him on this point.

Which is why the other main thrust of the story is so interesting. Mueller has also indicated that Mueller wants to start writing his report on obstruction — according to Robert Costa, with the intent of finishing it by June or July, just before Congress breaks for August recess, the official start of campaign season — with plans for a second report on the election conspiracy to follow.

The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.

Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.


Mueller’s investigators have indicated to the president’s legal team that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages — with the first report focused on the obstruction issue, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

Under special counsel regulations, Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly.

“They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need the president’s interview as the last step,” one person familiar with the discussions said of Mueller’s team.

Trump’s attorneys expect the president would also face questions about what he knew about any contacts by his associates with Russian officials and emissaries in 2016, several White House advisers said. The president’s allies believe a second report detailing the special counsel’s findings on Russia’s interference would be issued later.

That leads us to the question of how a report that Rod Rosenstein has authority to quash could be assured of “answering the public’s questions.” One option is Mueller could propose charges he knows Rosenstein won’t — or can’t — approve, which guarantees that the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Judiciary Committees (currently, Bob Goodlatte, who is retiring, Jerry Nadler, Chuck Grassley, and Dianne Feinstein, who faces a real challenge this year) will get at least a summary.

Mueller could trigger a reporting requirement in the special counsel regulations under which the attorney general must inform “the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Judiciary Committees of each House of Congress” — both parties, in other words — at the end of the special counsel’s investigation, of any instance in which the attorney general vetoed a proposed action. Simply by proposing to indict Trump, Mueller could ensure that Congress gets the word. But this would be of only limited scope: instead of an evidence dump, it need only be a “brief notification, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.”

Alternately, Mueller could recommend impeachment, but Rosenstein would be bound by grand jury secrecy rules.

If Mueller believes he has information that could warrant impeachment, he could weave it into a narrative like the Starr Report. But even if Rosenstein wanted to make the report public, he would be limited by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes strict limits on the disclosure of grand jury materials. This rule, which has the force of law, is intended to preserve the integrity of grand jury investigations and encourage witnesses to testify fully and frankly. Rosenstein could, if he chose, issue a redacted report that conveys the gist of Mueller’s findings.

While the election conspiracy has involved grand jury subpoenas (to people like Sam Nunberg and Ted Malloch, most recently), the obstruction investigation into Trump has involved (as far as I remember) entirely voluntary interviews and mostly, if not entirely, voluntarily produced evidence. So whereas for the larger investigation, Rosenstein will face this limit (but not if the targets — like Roger Stone — are indicted), he may not here.

All of which is to say we may be looking at a public report saying that Trump should be impeached just as Republicans attempt to keep Congress.

Even as some of Mueller’s 17+ prosecutors write that up (by my estimate, only Watergate prosecutor James Quarles has been working the Trump obstruction full time), the rest will continue to roll out evidence — possibly in the form of very inflammatory indictments — of what Trump was trying to obstruct.

Effectively, I think Mueller is giving the GOP Congress a choice. They impeach Trump on the less inflammatory stuff,which will remove all threat of firing and/or pardons to threaten the investigation, not to mention make Trump eligible to be a target for the actual election conspiracy he tried to cover up. Or after they fail to hold the House while explaining why they’re covering up for Trump’s cover up, they will face a more serious inquiry relating to Trump’s involvement in the election conspiracy.

95 replies
  1. Trip says:

    Justice, IMO, would be Nunes, McConnell and Ryan, among others, being part of the full obstruction conspiracy. But we know that won’t happen. I still worry that any of those players, and most prominently Trump Inc, will go to extraordinary measures to keep Mueller’s report from reaching public eyes. Rosenstein may not quash it, but a replacement toady might. And who knows how Sessions will act if he reaches a climax of desperation? He is already acting in nefarious ways by un-recusing himself in matters that shouldn’t involve him, when it means saving his own ass.

    Thank you so much Marcy, for your brilliant analysis, and making it easier for lightweights like myself to muddle through this. It’s so refreshing compared to the standard fare of stories in MSM, which so often miss the mark of what’s truly happening, or otherwise their divergence and focus into inconsequential minutiae.

  2. Bob Conyers says:

    Does anyone know what kind of legal jeopardy on the federal level Trump would face after he is President (hopefully by 2021)?

    I’ve seen the formulation by some conservatives “a president can’t be indicted” which leaves out the “while in office” part, which makes me wonder if they are angling for some kind of eternal get out of jail free card.

    But assuming that is nonsense, can Mueller essentially leave the case in suspension to be finalized once Trump is out of office? Or does a new prosecutor have to get a new grand jury, rehear witness testimony, and go through a lot of hurdles to get back to where Mueller stopped?

    I have no sense also whether the hindering of indictments has an effect on statutes of limitations – does the clock continue to run, essentially giving presidents a huge advantage in cases which are slow to develop?

      • DavidG says:

        Isn’t it fairly obvious that Trump would threaten to fight to the bitter end unless he were given a full pardon as a condition of leaving office voluntarily and in exchange for encouraging his followers not to resort to violence?

        Of course, such a pardon would be to end our long national nightmare etc., not as a quid pro quo by President Pence.

  3. Pete says:

    And what if Trump Jr, Kushner, and/or Ivanka get indicted? I note they sure have been quiet lately. I doubt Trump would chat with Mueller if that happened first.

    Actually, come to think of it I wonder what they might be targets of – conspiracy to obstruct – for one – perhaps?


  4. bmaz says:

    I actually think the better position is that a sitting President CAN be indicted. That, however, is not the position of OLC opinions on the subject; opinions that putatively control DOJ, and thus Mueller. Not sure it matters, because my inclination is that even if Mueller (okay Dreeben) thought they could, the qualitative decision would still be that they won’t. Thus, as Marcy says, Trump really can’t be a target here. The flat-out acknowledgement that he IS a subject, is extremely important though, and if I were Trump, would scare the hell out of me.

    One thing that perplexes me is the continued view that Mueller wants to issue separate and incremental reports, with “obstruction” coming first. This has been being pitched by sources from the Trump camp for quite a while, and is not really new, except for a supposed June/July time frame. Maybe this is really the case, but not sure why Mueller desires this as opposed to a unified complete report. Maybe Marcy’s potential theory makes sense. But mostly piecemealing it still perplexes me.

    • Trip says:

      I don’t know what, if any crimes, were uncovered, but if they won’t have exceeded the statute of limitations beyond 2020 or even 2024, perhaps the end game is indictment, when out of office. Then that leaves either a Democrat or Republican in charge of potential pardons. If a Republican does it, it might be the kiss of death for the party, depending on the level and depth of betrayal to the country.

      It would be much easier to pardon an obstruction case with rationalizations (in suspension of disbelief) that no real crime was committed, but participants only wanted to stop the investigation. Pardoning a conspiracy to defraud the country on the other hand, (leaning toward treasonous behavior, and yes, I know it’s not a legal version of the term, or a strict version, or any version, but on that level of betrayal), firmly cements the Republicans forever as the party with no threshold too high on corruption, and condoning acts against the country, for the party and personal benefit alone.

      • bmaz says:

        Any crime I have seen even contemplated would be subject to the general five year statute of limitation. That is from the date of the actual offense generally, occasionally from the date of discovery of the offense (rarely).

        • Trip says:

          Thanks bmaz, so the clock is ticking. But perhaps this has been ongoing? Maybe this is why the scope issue has been hollered about so much? If they attempt to limit Mueller to the campaign period and not beyond, where the administration might still be very active?

        • cue says:

          Two followups concerning statue of limitations issues if I may:

          1.  If certain individuals are thought to have committed alleged offenses which are allegedly criminal conspiracy offenses would the supposed continuing acts of conspiracy continually reset the clock for the entire group of offenses committed by the conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy, until such time as the conspiracy ceases to exist?

          2. Would the concept of fraudulent concealment possibly apply if certain individuals are found to have concealed facts which might have supported possible indictments?

          • bmaz says:

            1) Maybe! It depends on how it is pleaded and, to some extent, the nature of the ongoing acts That is a complicated question.

            2) It …… can. That is part and parcel of what is known as a argument for tolling of the statute. The answer is almost always no. And it is always no when any general idea of the offense is known.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        I would not exclude any Murder investigations potentially tied into this.

        Therefore, no clock ticking.

        Seth Rich comes to mind.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        So, both Leslin and Tretyakov were just drunk. Right.

        Covert ops. Choking the chicken.


        Without more evidence, we can’t really know. Sometimes, deaths that seem mysterious turn out to have innocent causes. In 2010, Sergei Tretyakov, a former high-ranking Soviet spy, died suddenly, at the age of fifty-three. From 1995 to 2000, he had posed as a diplomat at Russia’s mission to the United Nations, where he oversaw covert operations in New York City. Then he defected, and, according to Pete Earley’s book on Tretyakov, “Comrade J,” handed over five thousand secret cables to American officials.

        Tretyakov’s death, at his home in Florida, attracted interest from the F.B.I. and C.I.A. But, according to Dr. Russell Vega, the chief medical examiner for Sarasota County, Tretyakov did not seem to have been the object of a nefarious plot. He died by choking on a large piece of chicken. How did that happen? The autopsy showed that Tretyakov was extremely drunk at the time. “It wasn’t subtle,” Vega said.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think the notion he wants two reports finally makes sense of the purported focus on obstruction.

      As I’ve always said, there is zero way you indict a president on obstruction, maybe not even as an unindicted.

      But you do name the president on the ConFraudUs stuff, and that will be truly alarming stuff.

      So the initial focus on obstruction didn’t make sense if you were assuming that Mueller was thinking indictments. It makes a ton more sense if you assume that Mueller is thinking of an early report showing that Trump has abused the presidency.

      • bmaz says:

        Maybe. But, to me, no clue what Mueller is thinking, but to me Trump is FAR to central to any obstruction indictment to not be listed as an unindicted. He IS the hub of any such conspiracy to obstruct.

    • Peterr says:

      One possible reason for a bifurcated report would be to avoid what Jim Comey ran into when he dropped investigatory information into the pre-election frenzy. By putting some of his conclusions out there in June/July, rather than all of it in October, it has more of a chance of being evaluated apart from charges of trying to influence the elections in favor of the Dems.

      Not that Trump & Co won’t make exactly that charge 15 minutes after a Mueller report becomes public, mind you, but there’s no “good time” to release a report that would avoid this charge being leveled.

      • Avattoir says:

        Trump really did want that parade closer to Bastille Day (mid July). November 11 probably doesn’t work to distract from anything, including the midterms results. Now it looks more likely that Mueller’s Report will go to Rosenstein at least closer in time to when Putin comes to scare the beejeebers out of Manafort.

        • TheraP says:

          Plus, keep in mind that the Parade Date turns out also to be the Centeniary of WWI’s end; and that many are now working on lots of reporting about the Centeniary, with the express intention of underscoring all the Lessons of that War – especially with reference to Trump’s antics, craziness, chaos and impulsive, erratic, ego-driven, world-war-risking similar behavior.

          So if events occur as Marcy is predicting, with reference to the Mueller probe, that impending Centeniary (and the Parade marking it – not Trump!) will be like a Double Whammy, leading up to the election.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      The problem I have with the blanket statement that a president can’t be indicted is that there is an underlying assumption that the crime is something like perjury or cheating on taxes.

      But of course that’s not necessarily true. You could imagine a hypothetical situation where it’s a week after election day, and the FBI presents video evidence to a prosecutor that a president is on the verge of selling nuclear secrets to the Taliban.

      Would anyone really argue that the only solution is to assemble Congress from all four corners of the US, get quorums, begin the impeachment process, and hope that there aren’t enough lame duck loyalists in place to block action?

      I realize extreme cases and all that, but the underlying claim about indictment of a sitting president is that it would unreasonably interfere with the actions of the executive. The point here is that there are times when, in fact, you want the regular process to happen as quickly as possible.

      If this issue goes to the courts in the context of the Mueller investigation, I would hope that any ruling against indictments isn’t absolute, and leaves open the possibility in other situations.

      • bmaz says:

        As currently framed it is either a yes or no, without distinction as to type and manner of crime. What you note is part of why I believe the far better position is that a POTUS can be indicted. As I said previously, I’ll bet Dreeben thinks so too (just guessing, no direct knowledge), but can pretty much guarantee that Mueller, and Rosenstein, who would have to approve charges, hew to the current DOJ edict of no.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I would hazard a guess that Mueller doesn’t trust the current Supreme Court to issue a narrow ruling if he brings a case on the most likely set of crimes, and he fears they may shut the door to any indictments against any future president, even for something regarding national security.

          Being an institutionalist, he doesn’t want to see the door closed and would rather pursue other avenues.

        • DMM says:

          One distinction might be the nature of a president’s actions, though, maybe(?). Firing Comey and Yates are clearly powers/authority of the office, whereas something like the perjury or cheating on taxes to which @BobConyers alludes  are clearly not. Something like asking Comey to lay off Flynn is murkier, but there’s at least an argument that all federal prosecutions fall under the “executive Power” conferred by Article II (though maybe Morrison v Olson precludes that?).

          • KM says:

             clearly powers/authority of the office

            Virtually any power/authority of the office, as it were, can be engaged in for corrupt purposes (and thus illegally).

            asking Comey to lay off Flynn is murkier

            Not to my mind.  Then again, who cares what I think?

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Would anyone really argue that the only solution is to assemble Congress from all four corners of the US, get quorums, begin the impeachment process, and hope that there aren’t enough lame duck loyalists in place to block action?

        What you’re after isn’t the ability to indict a president, but an end to the strong presidency. Or at very least, a set of constitutional changes that make the presidency less like an elected 18th-century monarchy.

  5. Neil says:

    I am confused by the money laundering investigation. This report says nothing about it. I can conceive of a situation where Trump is removed from electoral shenanigans in a “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest” kind of way, but the years upon years upon years of money laundering that much of this investigation seems to be leading to suggests a more difficult problem for Trump to wriggle out of.

  6. Avattoir says:

    Suggested development projects, working titles, nature of medium, key artists:

    1. The Demise of Trump – film production targeted for cable or subscription; script by Chapelle, L. David & Iannucci; show runners: Coen brothers.

    2. Flagrant Towers – stage musical; libretto John Oliver; score L.M. Miranda & Sondheim; lyrics Sondheim & Idle; show runner: Miranda.

    3. Autopsy of Grift: How to Read the Mueller Report thru Court Filings, News Media Reports and Tweets: the Definitive Transform (unexpurgated) – book & blog by Wheeler; audio book readers Bee, Neeson, Rylance & Vowell; children’s version readers Gottfried & Silverman.

    • TheraP says:

      I can hardly wait! Where do the Parkland students fit in? A Greek Chorus perhaps?

      May I propose a close relative for the Lighting? I’m sure he’d be delighted to do it! He also loves music. (He could get me a free ticket? Or a pass to be backstage? Or on site for filming?)

      Truly, I can hardly wait! I’ll buy then book too. And the music. The whole shebang!

  7. jayedcoins says:

    @Trip —

    To your original post, I’m curious who knows what the statute of limitations would be in pursuing the kind of obstruction charges you mention? Even if we want to be generous to Ryan and McConnell, Nunes has done enough publicly, with hardly a veil of credibility, that you’d think a full investigation focusing on his actions would be warranted.

    Yesterday, I posted a few words of optimism, but now, some pessimism — I am concerned that the political response to a June/July report on obstruction, no matter how damning or exculpatory, wouldn’t move the needle much. People like those in these pages, that have a genuine interest in the truth somewhat apart from their partisan leanings, are few and far between.

    The #Resistance isn’t going to budge if the report is exculpatory — they will revert from embracing Comey, and Mueller Time memes, to suddenly remembering the damage Comey’s approach to “her emails” did to Clinton’s chances late in the election, remembering the Republican affiliations of both men, and I’m sure simmering back up the conspiracy theories of the WilmerHale–>Trump family connection that they were infatuated with when SCO was announced, and before they realized it was serious business.

    As for the right, it’s pretty clear — a solid 30% of the voting public is tribally (is that a word?) immovable. “Deplorables” was bad politics, but at this point, it’s hard to say she was wrong. That 30% is stuck in, and any credible report that shows impeachable offenses will be rebuffed with “TRUMP TRAIN” memes and MAGA hats and Jacob Wohl thirst tweets.

    I suppose, back to my optimism from yesterday — 30% isn’t enough. Even with enthusiasm for “the Democrats” being problematic (for good reason), they will achieve a baseline markedly higher than 30% in the mid-terms, and Republican reps in the rust belt states — and even rural districts in blue states — will presumably have to make serious shifts to the center to beat Lamb-style centrism (let alone the types of progressive candidates that have shown an ability to actually pull those Republican votes through an actual economic message focused on labor).

    • Avattoir says:

      Crikey, there’s surely some more appropriate site for this sort of pointless worry warthogwash. Orange Satan maybe?

    • Trip says:

      Sometimes my brain fumbles and then my communication leaves much to be desired. I didn’t intend the statute of limitations comment in regard to obstruction, but rather to any possible underlying crimes for which they attempted to obstruct, not the obstruction itself. In re obstruction, if you investigate Nunes, you can’t do so without acknowledging the very obvious assist of Ryan, handing him inside info on the investigation, even while Nunes is supposedly recused, for being a member of the group UNDER investigation.

      As to the results and the reports; I do sometimes worry that appearances of impropriety, and even actual impropriety, may strike as ‘political business as usual’, maybe not reaching the crucial elements and proof beyond reasonable doubt threshold in criminality. We have moved so far legislatively in permitting money to buy influence, beyond the will of the populace, that you really seem to need absurd levels of evidence as to quid pro quo, bribes, extortion and blackmail. Money laundering is such a complicated web of players, LLCs, countries, etc. that then tying something like that to government policy, as a return, is clearly a steep mountain to climb. I suppose there could be money laundering alone, as a means to an end for financial reward alone, without impact in governing, but I wonder how far back it went and whether it was more gradually diminished, if it was covered up successfully, as Trump decided to get into politics.

      If Mueller can’t prove anything beyond reasonable doubt, it doesn’t make Trump innocent. But that is how it will be perceived.  If he can, then the Trump cult will undoubtedly consider it rigged. I suppose it’s possible that Trump isn’t guilty of anything other than being a dunce and asshole, with everyone else swirling around him and making dirty deals, but personally I don’t think so. Anyway, with my pessimism, I foresee some bad times ahead, no matter the result of the reports. Discontent will abound, which will, no doubt, make the US look even more unstable to the world (for a while anyway).

      • jayedcoins says:

        Hey Trip,

        No worries, your communication is top-notch — I appreciate the clarification, it helps me learn! I see what you’re saying now, I think it was “obstruction conspiracy” that threw me off. But on a re-read, it makes sense. And obviously, you’re right about Ryan, at least insofar as any halfway sane person with basic observational skills can tell… my point in throwing he and McConnell out of the equation was to drive home the point of how utterly blatant Nunes has been (and how untouchable Ryan and McConnell have been… though Ryan looks to be losing luster).

      • jayedcoins says:

        Thanks bmaz!

        The reason I ask, and think it is important to know and note that, is that it leaves a lot of room for the political landscape to change such that folks like Nunes can’t expect to be able to skate away under the cover of their higher ranking partisan allies.

  8. Kevin Finnerty says:

    If the obstruction portion of the investigation wraps up first, it will be interesting to see whether other Trump associates get dragged under at that point.


    A lot of ink has been spilled on whether Trump can be indicted for obstruction, either by virtue of his office, or under the theory that he cannot obstruct justice merely by exercising his constitutionally granted powers. But neither of these exceptions apply to, oh let’s say Jared Kushner, who we know was very forcefully pushing for Comey’s firing. Or Hope Hicks, whose statements led to a spokesman for Trump’s legal team to resign for fear that obstruction might be taking place.


    So if a report on obstruction is issued, and if, as many expect, it results in an impeachment referral for Trump rather a criminal indictment, we might also see the report coupled with indictments of Trump associates for the same pattern of conduct.


    This would presumably put more pressure on Congress to act, but frankly I’m not hopeful.


    I question the wisdom of Mueller giving Congress an “out” by issuing an impeachment referral on obstruction before concluding the investigation into the various Russia related conspiracy crimes. Once Mueller issues an impeachment referral (or an indictment of a close Trump associate), he will be fired. No question at all.


    If obstruction comes first, the remaining issues may never be concluded.

    • Avattoir says:

      Yoicks! So clearly the way to go is start with a grand jury or two, file some indictments, snarf up some guilty pleas (preferably at least one that brings home to potential interview subjects, witnesses and the public the consequences of lying to federal investigators), file some long & painstakingly detailed indictments, schedule a trial – nah, make it TWO trials – for a really big player, find a clever way to publish something comprehensively laying out your authority & making it clear you know the public interest is high up on your agenda & that you intend to do something both concrete & specific to address that, keep investigating, THEN deliver your report.

      You should reduce to writing all your concerns & how they might be addressed and send it all to the OSC immediately, immediately, immediately harrumph

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Depending on the reach of the Trump financial records Mueller’s team is reviewing, there are probably quite a few potential crimes that pre-date Trump’s election.  Their exposure, say, in the context of impeachment discussions, could make the Trump Org., which Trump still owns, radioactive.  It could also limit the ways he makes money from having been president, though nothing would inhibit the Murdoch creature from paying the Don $50 million for his ghost-written bio.  Not much for a billionaire, especially if a host of legal proceedings haunt him after his presidency.

    The obstruction and ConFraud USA allegations would survive Trump’s first term, but not a second.  For that, to hide its own crimes and to further promote the neoliberal agenda of the GOP’s billionaire donors, the GOP will go all out to give Trump that second term.  That will lead to a battle royal. Trump is likely to lose it, absent greater successes with voter suppression and election tampering.  Efforts toward the former, as in Pennsylvania, will gather speed.  This time, however, the GOP is likely to be more careful about the nationality of its outside contractors and supporters.

    I think bringing Mueller’s report out in stages makes for excellent theater and gamesmanship.  It makes the material more digestible and people wanting to learn more.  It will stress and infuriate implicated players, which often generates mistakes and further bad judgment.  It generates momentum, making it harder for Congress to do nothing.  It is likely to affect the election.  It should, given the crimes and bad behavior among the nation’s powerful that Mueller’s investigation has likely uncovered.

    • bmaz says:

      I would argue that prosecutors, special or otherwise, have a duty to not piecemeal out charges that they are aware of, which serves to up the ante and undercut defendants’ ability to defend themselves. There is actually precedence on this fwiw. Sure prosecutors often violate the principle, but that doesn’t make it right or fair.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not a routine legal proceeding, is it. Mueller is also fighting to keep his investigation intact.  No one expects Jeff Session’s DoJ – or any successor to Sessions or Rosenstein Trump deems more loyal and acceptable to him – to take up the work if Trump succeeds in having Mueller’s team disbanded.

        Reports coming out in series are not necessarily limited to charges brought.  And charges would not be brought out piecemeal if each report dealt with all planned charges against the defendants dealt with in each report.

        • bmaz says:

          No, not routine. And I did not say he can’t do that,just that it perplexes me, and I think it still better practice and makes more sense to do it in one bundle. I simply do not yet buy that there is some brilliant strategy to piecemealing it out. And will also note that the ONLY people making these noises are the Trump team, and they are famous for floating bullshit to keep Trump as calm as they can. Remember when this was all going to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving or Christmas? That was them too, supposedly based on their discussions with the Mueller shop. That was garbage then. This may be too. We’ll see.

          • Peterr says:

            There is also the possibility that rolling out the obstruction report (and associated indictments, if any) in June/July is aimed at firing a warning at someone (or perhaps Someone) that obstruction will not be tolerated as the work of the SC continues around the election conspiracy.

            There’s also the concern that Mueller has run up against some kind of brick wall because of the obstruction, and the June/July report is an attempt to get around or over that wall. This would be similar to how Fitz brought his indictment of Scooter before issuing a final report on the whole Plame affair.

            As the judge’s sentencing statement made clear, she viewed Van der Swaan’s sentence as necessary to warn other lawyers that screwing around with investigators is not something they ought to consider as a legal strategy. She may have been speaking in general about all kinds of defendants she sees, but you can be sure that Trump’s team of The Best People who are handling his legal concerns got her message loudly and clearly.

            Not that Trump got the message, mind you, but I’m reasonably sure the lawyers did.

            • bmaz says:

              It is swell that everybody has manufactured their own justifications for it when no one has any idea in the world what Mueller is thinking, or as I noted previously whether he is really thinking this at all as opposed to being more in a similar vein of bullshit from Team Trump. If, and when Mueller announces that this is really true and explains his strategy, I am dubious and think the concept, and fervor over it, are wrongheaded.

              • Peterr says:

                Lighten up, bmaz.

                Way up above, you wrote:

                One thing that perplexes me is the continued view that Mueller wants to issue separate and incremental reports, with “obstruction” coming first. This has been being pitched by sources from the Trump camp for quite a while, and is not really new, except for a supposed June/July time frame. Maybe this is really the case, but not sure why Mueller desires this as opposed to a unified complete report. Maybe Marcy’s potential theory makes sense. But mostly piecemealing it still perplexes me.

                I took you at your word that you were perplexed, and offered a number of what I clearly labeled as “possibilities”. Others may be “manufacturing their own justifications,” as you put it, but I’m simply trying to puzzle out possible answers for what I agree no one but Mueller knows for sure.

                If trying to puzzle out what Mueller is doing bothers you, you might want to take it up with Marcy, who is doing exactly that.

          • KM says:

            the ONLY people making these noises are the Trump team

            I don’t think this can be emphasised enough.  Caveat lector.

  10. Rapier says:

    Marcy’s formulation means i think that Muller knows that there isn’t a legal solution to what is a political problem. He isn’t going to fix this thing. The political solution would be better served if he is fired.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s not solely a political problem, as the charges and plea deals to date have shown.  There are serious crimes to be dealt with.  That some defendants are not reachable for political reasons should not shield those that are reachable.  Alex van der Zwann, Papadopoulos, Gates, Flynn’s cases would seem to be the tip of a criminal iceberg.  Only Trump is temporarily unreachable to the criminal law.

      • jayedcoins says:

        Thank you — I think you’re hitting a very important point here that a lot of people (especially the resisters) lose sight of. This is about Trump, but it is not solely about Trump. If what we get from this is a relatively unscathed Donald Trump, but actual legal punishments thrown against men like Manafort or (pretty please) Prince, that’s a huge deal. Our society affords way too much impunity to rich white men playing this “game,” while it throws the book at almost everyone else for harmless offenses.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          If I were the Don, I would not bet the Trump Organization on his coming out of this “unscathed”.  Time is not on his side.  The DoJ will have documented his potential wrongdoing.  The Don doesn’t change his habits and he doesn’t take good advice.  He will do again whatever made money before to keep his leveraged “empire” afloat.

          A president Warren or Harris, a Dawn Johnsen as Attorney General, say, and all bets for his post-presidency safety are off.  Plus, his spawn are reachable now, should they have committed any provable crimes.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Of course, we could get another establishment Democrat as president.  She might be fully committed to looking forward, not back, regardless of how much closer things are than they appear to be in her rear view mirror.

          • bmaz says:

            Thanks for raising Dawn Johnsen again. She is a fine person, and a brilliant legal mind. You probably remember my old posts on Dawn. She would be an excellent choice for AG, though my understanding is she is pretty resigned to not going back into the DOJ. Hopefully that could change, because she is fantastic.

  11. yogarhythms says:

    Thank you EW for unpacking this political designer luggage. Mueller intends to release more than one report perhaps several as special counsel, not prosecutor, prerogative. Bite size information release through limited reporting is exactly what our micro-mini-adhd-culture prefrontal optics view. If Dems retake congressional majority there may be consequences for the bad actors.

  12. TheraP says:

    Wow! Wow! WOW!!!

    Such an amazing post! One for the ages.

    EW, you have brilliance; and you have guts! How many people would dare risk this many assumptions and predictions? But you have. Which makes so many of us willing – I dare say – to go right ‘out there’ with you.

    I’d say this ranks up there with your wonderful Op-Ed at the Times, which I’m linking below, for anyone who might want a refresher or may have missed it (because I think this one is going far and wide):

  13. tryggth says:

    “They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need the president’s interview as the last step,”

    Need a compulsive pathological liar’s interview.  Snark Master Mueller.

    • KM says:

      Not sure Mueller really does snark.  He just wants to lock in Trump’s responses.  He’s surely not actually seeking information from the Liar-in-Chief.

      • Avattoir says:

        Oh, I wouldn’t accept that at all. What happens in competent, thorough federal investigative question sessions is that every time the subject asserts doing or saying or thinking something, the questioners pounce right in with, Did you say that? Do you recall what you did say? Who were you speaking with? Who was present? Who all do you think COULD have heard you say this? Why didn’t you say anything? Was there a secretary or recorder present? Was anyone taking notes? Did you ask for a record or note to be taken? Have you seen any such record or note since? etc … seriously, I’ve just scratched the surface.

        All that is INFORMATION! And all of it gets followed up.

        • KM says:

          Sorry, “information” was admittedly ambiguous.  What I meant was that Mueller is surely not expecting to learn much factual information about what actually happened from a Trump interview.  The central point of the interview isn’t to lock down actual factual material that remains unclear to Mueller’s team.

          It is to lock down Trump’s claims about what he did and knew.  Of course that is valuable information in and of itself — particularly if it is unreliable.  I didn’t mean to suggest that investigators would not follow up those claims there and then. (Nor am I suggesting that everything that Trump will say need be false or factually useless to the Mueller team….)

  14. KM says:

    EW:  a question.  As interesting as I find it, doesn’t your interpretation of Mueller’s strategy hinge on Republican members of Congress actually being aware that more serious indictments on the “substantive” (“underlying”) issues are in the offing should they decide not to do their job?

  15. Rugger9 says:

    Trip @ 2:05 PM. I saw that too. With the observation that while the wheels of justice may grind slowly, they tend to grind very finely. When Mueller flips Manafort (something I consider to be very likely now that Paul can’t stop Mueller) that means the Kaiser will be in serious trouble. Manafort knows everything.

    Not only that but since the palace lawyers went and filed for arbitration on Daniels’ case, they opened up Avenatti’s motion again for deposing Cohen and the Kaiser. That’s something that will lead to many more unpleasant revelations. Hahahahahahaha.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      My opinion is that the chances of Manafort flipping are as good as the Don winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  Manafort has spent a career accumulating virtual tattoos, regardless of the family and social ties he might claim.  Going to prison would just add to them and avoid a whole lot of other trouble.

      I don’t understand the claim that “Trump’s” lawyers filed a motion to remove the federal case to private arbitration. The Blakely Law Group’s motion was filed on behalf of Cohen’s LLC Essential Consultants, not Trump.

      • bmaz says:

        Remember, if Mueller wants to apply final leverage to Manafort, he will indict Manafort’s wife Kathleen. She is legally naked and totally exposed, ripe for the plucking. I was almost shocked she was not indicted on the original Manafort/Gates indictment. But she is very much still in play. What will Paul do if that occurs??

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Keyser Soze, figuratively.  Manafort might not care, he might not be able to afford to care.

          Manafort’s past work suggests he has a healthy streak of psychopathy in him. If he cared a lot about family, he would have chosen different work or different clients.  K Street has thousands of clients that aren’t as special as Manafort’s.

          I agree, Manafort’s wife is a trump card in Mueller’s hand, but not necessarily a winner.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Avenatti already connected those dots in his premature filing.  That “premature” part is now removed, thus my point.

  16. greengiant says:

    There should be more pressure on the OSC and the IG to do a better job. So far, Comey, Mueller, and IG Horowitz, “there is nothing to see here” while 11 months ago Leahy was asking Comey about FBI leaks to Giuliani and Kallstrom. And Comey’s response was “I don’t know yet.”

    • bmaz says:

      I’m sorry, but this is total baloney. First off, you have NO idea what the Mueller shop has done and is doing. To make that statement is truly not right, and marginally uninformed. Let’s not do that here.

      • Trip says:

        Wasn’t that investigation being done by the Justice Dept Inspector General, the same office which investigated McCabe? They were given a mission to investigate Comey in re to Clinton email handling, and leaking, but he was fired by Trump, so that became a moot point, but we’ve never heard a peep about the FBI leakers in NYC, since. I guess it’s possible Mueller took it over if the leaks somehow pointed to a larger conspiracy, but wouldn’t the Inspector General still have to make a report since they were given that assignment specifically?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      The problems are big. Too early for SC to tip hand.
      Need more Metadata.

      Patience grasshopper.

  17. greengiant says:

    Why the discussion about impeachment? Granted any House GOP votes for impeachment would occur after the primary season. But Hastert rule and that means the 2019 congress for the House at best. For a president who claims he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose a voter how would the 2019 Senate get 67 votes?

    Plan B would be for GOP to rush impeachment in 2018 so as the GOP majority could name the new VP if Trump is really using an exit door.

    Otherwise the GOP/Mueller game is the only game they can play,  the roughly 8 percent chance that Trump will pass away naturally in the next 2 and half years.

  18. SomeCallMeTim says:

    Digby just created the Marcy counterpart to “What Digby said:”

    She sees things that nobody else sees and it’s always fascinating. 

    Long overdue, well deserved, and hopefully good for readership #s.

  19. david_l says:

    I’m not so sure about the statutes of limitations discussion above.

    If there were a federal criminal+civil RICO prosecution against Trump et al. (Jr., Ivanka, Erik, Cohen, …) as a criminal enterprise operating within The Trump Organization then all that would be required is a single predicate act (of the two or more required) to have occurred within its statute of limitations period prior to indictment.

    As we stand now if Trump fired Comey to keep him from uncovering (among other things) Russian and other organized crime money laundering ties that go back to, say, the late 90s then that’s good up to Q2 ’22. And colluding with Nunez to obstruct the House investigation would take it up to Q1 ’23.

    And if Jr. and Ivanka and Erik keep doing what they have probably been doing for years (and conspiring with Dad) then I don’t think there will be any statutes of limitations issues for RICO criminal+civil prosecutions almost no matter when they happen, which could well result in all of them (probably including Jr.’s then-former wife) having to forfeit virtually all their assets.

    One can even imagine a pardon-proof division of labor between state and federal RICO criminal (state)+civil (federal) prosecutions…

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