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Tag: special counsel

How Democrats Could Save the Mueller Probe if Trump’s Administration Tries to End It

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian meddling is at risk of being sabotaged by President Trump’s administration.

A day after the midterm elections, Trump forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and replaced him with a loyalist, Matthew Whitaker, who could try to end the investigation.

Republicans in the Senate blocked a bill to protect the special counsel probe on Wednesday, and this morning Trump unleashed a series of tweets calling the probe “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LINK TO NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY.”

But Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, still have recourse. Slate reports that Democrats could protect the investigation by creating a “Special Select Committee on Russian Election Interference” and appointing Mueller and his prosecutors as the lead investigators. 

Or Democrats could subpoena details of the investigation and hire him to complete the probe.

Trump to Submit Written Answers to Mueller’s Questions about Russian Interference

President Trump at Indiana rally.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s legal team may submit written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller as early as this week.

The answers are limited to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and do not involve obstruction of justice allegations, a source familiar with the investigation told NBC News

Trump’s legal team has insisted the obstruction of justice questions are off limits because they involve the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. Trump’s lawyers argue the president has the authority to hire and fire under Article 2 of the Constitution.

Trump has met at least once this week with his legal team to discuss Mueller’s request for written answers.

Mueller Expected to Issue New Indictments As New AG Weighs His Options

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue indictments as early this week as acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker weighs whether he should recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

It has been widely speculated that the next two months will be busy for Mueller after going silent during the midterm elections.

But the fate of Mueller’s investigation hangs in the balance after President Trump replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Whitaker, a loyalist who has contended that the special counsel probe is illegal.

Whitaker plans to meet with Justice Department ethics officials this week about whether he should take over the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The state of Maryland took legal action Tuesday, arguing that Trump may not “bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office.” Maryland officials believe Rosenstein should have been appointed to replace Sessions as a matter of law. 

Meanwhile, it’s unclear who could be indicted by Mueller’s team after CBS reported that new inducements are expected soon. 

Among those facing potential indictments are GOP strategist and longtime Trump supporter Roger Stone and far-right commentator Jerome Corsi, who said earlier this week that Mueller’s team told him he would be indicted.

So far, Mueller’s team has indicted four people once connected to Trump’s campaign or administration, 12 Russian intelligence officers, 13 Russian nationals, three Russian companies and three other people.

Mueller’s Investigation Appears to Be Winding Down, But Experts Say Maybe Not

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation nearing an end?

After six guilty pleas, a jury conviction and the indictment of 26 individuals and three Russians, Mueller has reduced the size of his staff from 17 prosecutors to 13.

After the midterms, Mueller’s team plans to issue a report on the main findings of an investigation that began in April 2017.

But does that mean the end is near?

“Who the heck knows? My guess is he is getting close to done, but that is only a guess,” Peter Zeidenberg, a former Justice Department prosecutor, told the Washington Examiner

“I think anyone who tells you the answer to this question [of winding down] with a high degree of confidence is mistaken,” Zeidenberg explained.

Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior counsel on the Whitewater investigation, said it’s reasonable to believe the investigation will pick up steam after the midterm elections.

“A seasoned investigator urged caution. “Anyone who is sure he is wrapping up is projecting their own thinking,” Rosenzweig said. “Anyone who is sure he is just laying low is, likewise, projecting. Mueller has been quiet of late because of the midterm elections. Expect a resumption after the new year.”

President Trump’s legal team has been claiming the investigation is wrapping up for more than a year. But so far, Mueller has been unable to get Trump to sit down for an interview.

Only time will tell when the investigation is over.

Once-Defiant Manafort Meets with Mueller’s Team As Part of Cooperation Agreement

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The once-defiant Paul Manafort met Monday with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team less than a month after he reached a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

As part of a plea deal reached last month, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort and his lawyers sat down with Mueller’s prosecutors, but neither side would comment on the substance of the meeting.

Under the plea deal, Manafort must cooperate “fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly…in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant.”

Manafort is expected to be sentenced after the November midterm elections. 

Manafort served as the Trump campaign chairman in the 2016 presidential election.

Other Stories of Interest

Republicans Balk at Bill to Protect Russia Investigation As Trump Meets with Rosenstein

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of the special counsel’s Russia investigation hangs in the balance as President Trump decides today whether to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises the federal probe.

The removal of Rosenstein would cause a shake-up at the top of the Justice Department, leaving open the possibility that the new deputy attorney general could end the investigation by firing social counsel Robert Mueller.

This scenario is why Democrats and some Republicans are backing a bill that would make it more difficult for Trump’s administration to end an investigation that has resulted in numerous indictments.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring the bill to the floor, leaving no protections in place to prevent Mueller’s removal.

The bill, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, would allow Mueller to appeal and provide for a judicial review of any attempts to fire him.

Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser Papadopoulos Considers Withdrawing Guilty Plea in Russia Probe

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos is strongly considering withdrawing his guilty plea after special counsel prosecutors recommended a six-month jail sentence, according to his wife Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos struck a deal with prosecutors last year, pleading guilty to misleading FBI agents during the Russian election meddling investigation. In exchange for his cooperation, Robert Mueller’s team was going to recommend leniency.

But a six-month jail sentence is not what he was expecting.

His wife told ABC that “he will make his final decision” Tuesday.

“He needs a serious conversation with his attorney.”

On Monday, Papadopoulos tweeted, “Been a hell of a year. Decision.”

Mueller’s prosecutors recommended jail time because they said Papadopoulos “caused damage” to the investigation by misleading investigators.

In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with a professor, identified in news reports as Joseph Mifsud, who said he had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Why the Manafort Jury Likely Hasn’t Reached a Verdict Yet

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the verdict in the Paul Manafort trial, it may feel like the jury has taken a long time.

But according to experts, juries typically take days – even more than a week – to reach a verdict on cases as complex as this one.

In the Manafort case, the jury began its third day of deliberations Monday. Manafort is charged with 18 counts, including bank fraud, conspiracy, filing false income tax returns and failure to report foreign or financial assets.

The news site Vox interviewed eight lawyers about the deliberations, and each said there’s nothing unusual about the jury take several days to reach a verdict.

“Probably means nothing,” Shira Scheindlin, a former United States district judge in the Southern District of New York, told Vox. “Most juries are very meticulous. Bank fraud and tax fraud are complex statutes and involve unfamiliar concepts. They are not in the everyday experience of jurors.”

Defense attorneys’ suggestion that “the length of the deliberations  is a good sign for them is pure spin,” said Michael Bromwich, former Justice Department inspector general. “Indeed, quick verdicts in complex cases are frequently for the defendant.”

Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said juries taking their jobs seriously and thus are methodical.

“The most likely thing it means is that they’re going through the charges, which are paper-driven and require confirmation methodically,” Litman said. “We know that’s happening, based on their questioning, and it’s the kind of the case that doing that would take three, four, five days anyway.”