Just days after the latest round of “Is Donald Trump about to fire Robert Mueller” headlines, Mueller has taken action which reminds everyone involved who’s really in charge here. He requested a wide range of documents from the Trump Organization in January, and by all accounts, at least some documents have been turned over. But today Mueller went for the jugular, hitting the Trump Organization with a subpoena (source: NY Times) for any documents they haven’t already turned over. Here’s why this is a big deal.
Based on Mueller’s pattern thus far, he doesn’t tend to ask Trump-Russia players for documents until he’s already obtained copies of those documents through his own means. Legal experts have explained that this is so Mueller can see which specific documents the players suspiciously decide not to include, allowing him to zoom in on them for clues about wrongdoing. In addition, it means he can indict anyone who tries to hide certain documents that he already knows exist, thus allowing him to try to force them into a plea deal. But why the subpoena? Why now?
Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation is essentially finished. We know this because he’s asked Trump for an interview about it, and those kinds of kingpin interviews don’t tend to take place until the end. But documents from the Trump Organization wouldn’t be about obstruction. They’d relate to financial crimes that Trump committed before or after taking office. Today’s subpoena feels like a closing move with regard to the financial crimes investigation. Mueller already has all of those documents. This subpoena is his way of formalizing any crimes committed by those in the Trump Organization who have refused to cooperate with the document requests.
In other words, Robert Mueller appears to have the physical evidence and records he needs in the financial crimes case against Donald Trump, and now he’s fishing for cooperating witnesses who can bolster his case. It suggests that, while his financial crimes probe isn’t complete, it’s closer than we might have thought. It’s also a reminder that Mueller is looking to expose every illegal financial or business move that everyone in the Trump Organization has ever committed – and that includes Trump’s kids.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report