Robert Mueller announced today that he’s obtained indictments against thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a massive years-long scheme aimed at altering the outcome of the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. In political terms, this is a crippling bodyblow to Trump, as it means a grand jury has looked at the evidence and concluded that Trump is indeed a Russian political puppet. But in terms of the investigation, there’s a reason Mueller is indicting the Russians before making his big move against Trump himself.
Actually there are two key reasons here. The first is that Mueller just guaranteed continued job security for himself, for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and for everyone else running the Trump-Russia investigation. Now that a grand jury has ruled that Russia really did try to rig the election for Trump, there is no way Trump can get away with turning around and trying to fire anyone. Nor can the Republican Party sit back and allow Trump to try to fire anyone, as much as the GOP would like this headache to go away, because the midterm elections just became all about this issue.
The second reason has criminal implications. Why has Mueller indicted anyone he’s indicted up to this point? It’s been entirely with the aim of getting those individuals to cut plea deals and provide evidence against bigger fish. This will be no different. These Russians will all get a chance to cut plea deals of their own, if they can provide evidence against the Americans they were working with. With thirteen Russians indicted today, one of them will hurry up and be the first to cut a deal, because the first person always gets the most lenient deal.
So now, even as Robert Mueller prepares to move on Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, he’s accomplished two things today. The first is that Trump is now politically crippled and the investigation is now bulletproof, even as Mueller makes his big move on Trump. The second is that Mueller is about to have Russians providing evidence against Trump and his people. It’s abundantly clear that Mueller plans to go after Trump for far more than merely obstruction. He’s bringing the house.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report