There was a definable moment, when the first subpoenas went out, in which Robert Mueller’s probe into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal transitioned from a fully secretive investigative phase into a more publicly trackable case-building phase. Now we’re seeing another fundamental transition, and it’s one that’s going to produce a few relative winners and a whole lot of high stakes losers in Trump’s orbit.
Mueller has begun interviewing some of Donald Trump’s highest ranking former underlings. These people, such as Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, are at the epicenter of the kind of investigative targets a prosecutor seeks to flip. They were close enough to Trump to know precisely what he was up to. They were involved enough with Trump’s crimes to have arguably committed conspiracy crimes themselves, which can be used against them. They’ve already lost their jobs for unrelated reasons anyway, so they have nothing to lose by flipping on Trump. Here’s the thing: Mueller wouldn’t be talking to these guys unless he already has criminal cases ready to go against them.
By all accounts, Priebus and Spicer each managed to make it through a full day of testifying for Mueller, without anyone involved feeling the need to pull the plug. If Priebus or Spicer had gotten cold feet, they might have called it off partway through – and if Mueller concluded they weren’t being cooperative, he might have called it off early. If this had happened, Mueller would have needed to be ready to bring criminal indictments against them immediately, so the other Trump-Russia players would think twice about playing the same game.
So let’s think about what this means: Robert Mueller appears to already have criminal conspiracy cases in place against some of the highest ranking people in Donald Trump’s orbit, in case he needs them. That means he must have criminal cases built by now against pretty much everyone in Trump’s orbit. At this point it comes down to who wants to cut the kind of deal that will take Trump down, and who wants to risk going to prison instead. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report