Donald Trump has said so many explosive and treasonous things this weekend, it’s been easy to forget that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still quietly plugging away at the Trump-Russia scandal in the background. Mueller hasn’t made any new arrests since Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were popped nearly two weeks ago. However, new grand jury details reveal that Mueller is aggressively going for Trump’s jugular.
Two weeks ago the media reported that Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis had testified in a Trump-Russia related grand jury. At the time it was not clear if Clovis was testifying on his own behalf in a case against him, or if he was testifying in a case against a bigger fish. Now Reuters (link) is reporting that Mueller used the appearance to question Clovis about whether Donald Trump knew about his campaign’s ongoing coordination with Russia. This changes everything, for a few different reasons.
First, the Reuters article says that Clovis is cooperating all the way. Clovis was beneath only Trump and Manafort in the campaign hierarchy, so he’s in a position to know whether or not Trump knew – and if so, he’s already given Trump up. Second, this means that Mueller is already deep into building a criminal case directly against Trump, as he’s asking witnesses questions with the specific intent of getting them to incriminate Trump. Third, it strongly suggests that Mueller doesn’t need Manafort in order to build a case against Trump, and he really did arrest Manafort just to get those with weaker stomachs to panic and begin cooperating. The most important takeaway relates to the actual criminal charges.
Up to now it’s appeared that Robert Mueller was trying to build a comprehensive obstruction of justice case against Donald Trump, as that might be the quickest and easiest to prove. However, it now appears that Mueller is trying to establish that the campaign’s Russia contacts were a crime in and of themselves. That could lead to Trump being charged with something along the lines of conspiracy against the United States.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report