For weeks it’s been clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is at or near the end of his investigation into Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice. Mueller asked Trump for an interview about the matter, which only ever takes place at the very end of these kinds of probes. That’s led to the question of how Mueller would handle his completed obstruction charges, even as he continues building criminal cases against Trump for money laundering, conspiracy against the United States, or other similar charges. Now it appears we have that answer.
Instead of doing things piecemeal, Mueller is now considering holding off on the obstruction charges until he can bring all the various kinds of criminal charges at once, according to a new Bloomberg report (link). Bloomberg is positing that Mueller’s strategy here would be to avoid spooking the people in Trump’s inner circle. If he indicts them for felony obstruction, they may panic and cease cooperating with him when it comes to the other kinds of crimes he’s investigating. We think there’s more to it.
Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institution put it this this way on Twitter: “I have worked against & with Mueller, & this is him playing hardball with Trump to fight foot-dragging on an interview. Delay means probe will hang over POTUS, WH & GOP thru midterms–a disaster. Mueller is applying that pressure to make Trump testify.” This may be part of the strategy. But we believe that Mueller put this news out there today for a reason: he is in fact trying to spook Trump’s inner circle.
This is the first solid confirmation we’ve seen that Robert Mueller is indeed planning to indict Donald Trump’s inner circle for obstruction of justice or conspiracy to obstruct justice. Up to now, it hasn’t been clear if he was planning to criminally charge them, or allow them to avoid charges in exchange for their cooperation. By telegraphing that he’s going to indict Trump’s closest advisers, he may be trying to scare them into cutting plea deals while they still can.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report