Yet another high profile Donald Trump campaign adviser has announced that he’ll be invoking the Fifth Amendment in order to try to avoid testifying before Congress about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. While this will deprive the viewing public of getting to watch what might have been explosive testimony, it’s a sign of just how explosive the scandal has become for Donald Trump behind the scenes.
The latest Trump campaign adviser to plead the fifth is Carter Page, in response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request that he show up and testify (link). In return the committee can subpoena him anyway, and if a judge agrees, he can be legally compelled to come in for questioning. At that point Page would either be arrested for contempt of Congress, or he could show up and simply answer every question by saying he’s invoking the Fifth Amendment. But how the Senate side of this plays out is less important than what this means for the overall investigation – specifically the one being run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In legal terms, if you invoke the Fifth Amendment, it’s not an admission or indicator of guilt. Instead you’re saying that if the government wants to build a case against you, it’ll have to do so without your help. Perhaps you consider yourself to be innocent, and you believe you’re going to be maliciously prosecuted. But in practical terms, this is likely an indicator that Carter Page believes he’s going to be prosecuted for crimes related to the Russia scandal. That’s where this becomes a big deal.
Robert Mueller is already in the process of pursuing criminal prosecution against Donald Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, in order to pressure them into flipping on Trump. What we’re seeing today is an indicator that Mueller is probably pursuing (or about to pursue) something similar against Carter Page. Mueller only has to get one of these guys to flip on Trump. The more he adds to the mix, the more explosive this gets for Trump himself.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report