Robert Mueller takes warning shot at Donald Trump

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has never publicly spoken with his own voice about the Trump-Russia scandal. Instead he’s generally spoken through court filings, which have often seemed specifically timed to send a metaphorical message, or have included what seemed to be an actual message. Mueller’s latest court filings include one of his strongest messages to date – and it’s rather clearly aimed at Donald Trump and his closest advisers.

Mueller filed new paperwork in the case against Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort today. The filings included this footnote, which has nothing to do with the Manafort case: “The Special Counsel also has ‘the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses’ … Those authorities are not at issue here.”

This is a message to Trump, who has been committing one act of obstruction of justice after another, while intimidating one witness after another. Mueller is spelling out that he has the authority to go after Trump for these crimes. This also serves as a warning shot at various Trump advisers who are alleged to have helped Trump obstruct justice. For instance, last month former Trump spokesman Mark Corallo testified to Mueller that he heard Hope Hicks vowing to suppress or destroy the emails that incriminated Donald Trump Jr in the Trump-Russia scandal. Hicks has since resigned from the White House.

It can’t be stressed enough that the matter at hand in court today was Paul Manafort’s argument that Robert Mueller lacked the authority to investigate his dealings with the Russians. Manafort is not alleged to have committed any of the after-the-fact crimes named in Mueller’s footnote. This footnote was thrown in as a message to Donald Trump and the others.

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