When it comes to the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal and his other assorted crimes, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the upper hand in nearly every way. He has the leeway to do essentially whatever he sees fit with the probe. He has the evidence on his side. He has multiple key cooperating witnesses. There is only one thing that Mueller doesn’t necessarily have on his side – but he just scored a key victory in that regard.
Trump has been sitting back and letting Mueller pick him apart because Trump is under the delusion that Mueller is ultimately going to exonerate him. This is in large part thanks to Trump’s own attorneys, who – for reasons known only to them – have convinced Trump that Mueller will clear him soon. The trouble: the imaginary deadlines made up by Trump’s attorneys have come and gone, and Trump has gotten antsy, on the verge of figuring out that he’s in real trouble, and perhaps deciding to fight back accordingly. Yet now we’re learning that time is once again on Mueller’s side.
At last count, Trump’s attorneys had convinced him that Mueller would wrap the investigation and exonerate him by Christmas. They’ve slid that date back on Trump before, and he’s bought into it. But the holidays and the end of the year are a difficult deadline to get past. Yet nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal (link) is reporting that Trump’s lawyers have now convinced him that Mueller may need through the end of January. This is fundamentally huge, and it finally tells us how that fabled meeting between Mueller and Trump’s attorneys went.
In the short term, Robert Mueller is at a crucial point in his investigation. He’s had the Michael Flynn plea deal in place for weeks, and he’s presumably been using that evidence to set up a move on Jared Kushner. If Trump can be convinced to keep waiting, it gives Mueller the time he needs to take Kushner down. In the longer term, if Trump’s attorneys were able to convince him to give Mueller into 2018, it means they can keep pushing him back, because he’ll swallow anything.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report