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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) In this thread, a longtime criminal attorney analyzes one of the most pressing questions in American life today: how long will the Russia probe go on?

Read on for an answer, and please share this thread widely.
1/ The President and his Congressional and administration allies recently initiated a national campaign to convince America the Russia probe is nearly done.

It's not.

Ty Cobb, one of the President's attorneys, is the source of much of the misinformation.…
2/ As has now been widely reported, Cobb told Trump the Russia probe was nearly over to calm him. First he said the probe would be over by now; then, he switched his prediction to soon after Thanksgiving; then, he changed it to December; then, he changed it to "early next year."
3/ Cobb's assurances were intended for Trump, and for Trump's jittery allies. They're wishful thinking and aren't news.

However, in recent days Cobb has gotten an assist from disinterested observers: journalists misreading the course of the investigation.…
4/ There's an assumption—not among criminal investigators or criminal attorneys (two groups I've belonged to) but those without trial or investigative experience—that the probe ends the moment the only witness not yet interviewed by Bob Mueller is Trump himself.

This is wrong.
5/ To explain why it's wrong, let's start with some facts:

(a) Federal cases move more slowly in the investigative and trial phases than state cases do.

(b) Federal cases of any complexity take years.

(c) This investigation started in June 2016.

(d) It met unexpected delays.
6/ Let's add to those facts a few more:

(e) This is the most complex federal criminal investigation of our lifetimes, partly because its authorizing document is—in fact—stunningly broad in its scope and license.

(f) The case's lead investigator was fired by its target this May.
7/ It's true the FBI began looking at Trump-Russia ties a year before Comey's firing, but a) they had to be cautious—lest word of the probe leak and affect the election; b) they were distracted by a Trump-aided effort to reopen the Clinton case; c) key events hadn't happened yet;
8/ d) their main investigative lead came from a man with whom they weren't in regular contact (Chris Steele) and his sources were all either unknown or inaccessible (because overseas); e) the premise of the case—a historic, traitorous collusion—seemed far-fetched at first blush;
9/ f) the case was explosively political, and thus aroused little fervor among anyone worried about advancing their career in government; g) the GOP was actively working via media and D.C. circles to squelch any rumors about Trump (cf. Obama's effort to reach out to McConnell);
10/ h) the case had so many dimensions—at least 20 different investigative angles and 100+ key witnesses, many of whom were overseas—that focusing on any one slowed progress on any other, at least until substantial resources could be dedicated to the case (i.e., post-election);
11/ and i) because new inculpatory evidence was produced whenever Trump spoke, or every time a new Carter Page intercept was received (post-July 2016 FISA warrant on him), or every time Jared Kushner hatched a crazy scheme to back-channel Putin, new work was always being created.
12/ And in the midst of all this, the man who FBI investigators knew from Day One would be their primary target—and knew it because they'd begun by reading the "Steele Dossier," written by a man they'd worked with before and whose sources they trusted—fired the lead investigator.
13/ Here are a few of the investigative angles in the Russia probe:

(1) Hacking of DNC/Clinton (Guccifer, Stone, FancyBear et. al.)
(2) Illicit Sanctions Negotiations (Page, Sessions, Papadopoulos, Kislyak et. al.)
(3) Clandestine GOP Platform Changes (Gordon, Manafort et. al.)

(4) Clandestine Foreign Agents in Government A (Flynn, Gulen, Turkish officials et. al.)
(5) Clandestine Foreign Agents in Government B (Manafort, Gates, Deripaska et. al.)
(6) Data Analytics Collusion and Social Media Propaganda (Kushner, Mercer, Cambridge Analytica et. al)

(7) Obstruction of Justice A [Comey Firing] (Trump, Yates, Sessions, Miller, Comey, Lavrov, Kislyak, Hicks et. al.)

(8) Obstruction of Justice B [Trump Jr. Statement] (Trump, Trump Jr., Miller, Hicks et. al.)

(9) Making False Statements and/or Perjury A (Sessions)

(10) Making False Statements and/or Perjury B (Flynn)

(11) Making False Statements and/or Perjury C (Kushner)

(12) Making False Statements and/or Perjury D (Page)

(13) Making False Statements and/or Perjury E (Papadopoulos)

(14) Money Laundering (Manafort, Gates, et. al.)

(15) Espionage [Putin Backchannel] (Kushner, Flynn, Kislyak, et. al.)

(16) Clandestine Trump Tower Moscow Agreement [2013 to 2017] (Trump, Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Kremlin officials et. al.)

(17) Clandestine Trump-Putin Meeting Plans (Clovis, Papadopoulos, Dearborn, Page, Mifsud, Millian et. al.)

(18) Clandestine Outreach to Pro-Putin Ukrainian Officials (Manafort, Deripaska et. al.)

(19) Possible Trump-Rosneft Collusion (Steele, Page, Lavrov, Peskov et. al.)

(20) Kremlin Kompromat [Trump Indiscretions] (Trump, Schiller, Agalarov, Ritz Moscow staff, Trump org employees, Ritz visitors, Sarka et. al.)

(21) Kremlin Kompromat [HRC/Ukraine] (Veselnitskaya, Kaveladze, Akhmetshin, Goldstone, Emin Agalarov, Kushner, Manafort, Trump Jr.)

(22) Clandestine Trump-Putin Meeting Plans B (Torshin, Rogozin, Clarke, NRA et. al.)

(23) Emoluments Violations [Russian Investors] (Eric Trump, Don Jr., Ivanka Trump, Kushner, Dodson, Gorka et. al.)

(24) WikiLeaks (Trump, Assange, Trump Jr., Kushner, Rohrabacher et. al.)

(25) Suspicious Contacts in Other Nations (Papadopoulos, Kammenos, and Putin in Greece; Gordon, Page, Orbán, Finkelstein, and Schmitz in Hungary; Papadopoulos in the UK and Israel)

And these are just 25 of many, many more investigative angles that the FBI has had to pursue.
22/ So when Trump, his lawyers, his allies, GOP politicians, or members of the media imply that the investigation will be over the moment Bob Mueller finishes interviewing the person closest to Trump—Hope Hicks—in a couple weeks, I don't know what the hell they're talking about.
23/ Complex investigations can be diagrammed as a spiral: you have to return to certain witnesses a second or third or fourth time once you've learned more information. Consider—Mueller's talked to Carter Page 6 times. So why in the *world* would he speak to Hope Hicks just once?
24/ Moreover, as the preceding non-exhaustive list of 25 investigative angles demonstrates, Hicks is a key witness for only a *few* of the threads the FBI is pursuing. So even if Mueller were only going to speak to Hicks once—he won't—the end of that interview would mean little.
25/ Even if the investigative leads that involve Hicks were the *only* leads the FBI was pursuing (they're not—not by a mile) and even if Mueller were only going to interview Hicks once (he won't—it'll be multiple times) eyewitness testimony is only *one* kind of evidence.
26/ Eyewitness evidence is never the only sort of evidence a prosecutor wants or needs, but it *can* be something in the general vicinity of that—if not, admittedly, *exactly* that—if an eyewitness confesses to a crime themselves or says flatly and clearly they saw a crime occur.
27/ But one constant in the Russia probe—and it is a constant—is that every single Trump family member, campaign staffer, ally, friend, or administration aide that has been questioned on the subject has told *some* kind of lie. So the idea Mueller can rest on interviews is loony.
28/ More likely, *even if* Mueller were going to interview Hope Hicks only once—which he won't; again, it'll be multiple times—he'd either a) get "smoking gun" evidence from her right away, or b) get little enough from her that he'd have to pursue other leads to prove her a liar.
29/ On top of all this, there's a simple investigative maxim I first learned when I was being trained as a criminal investigator at Georgetown University in the mid-90s: "99% of investigation is failure." That means you do a *ton* of work that doesn't end up getting you anywhere.
30/ In the Russia probe, it's even worse than that maxim suggests because there are some leads the FBI *can't* track down right now—or even *fail* to track down—because they lack basic access to them. Steele has given them some of his sources—maybe all—but many are inaccessible.
31/ That is, if Mueller and his agents could pound the pavement and knock on doors in Moscow to speak to Steele's sources, those doors might be closed in their faces but *at least they'd be accessing those doors*. Right now they *can't*—and the same is true with key bank records.
32/ It's for the foregoing reasons that I've said—from Day 1—that the earliest window for impeachment (the earliest) is "12 to 18 months from Mueller's appointment." I've never—ever—not once—no matter how much trolls may wish it so—said that impeachment would be quick *or* easy.
33/ The reason is, I've conducted criminal investigations, and tried the most complex state cases (homicides), so I've a general sense of what a federal criminal investigation substantially more complex than anything I've ever had to deal with (or even the FBI has) might require.
34/ The reason Mueller has a team of over 40 people—18+ attorneys so far—is that this case requires top-flight expertise in so many disparate areas of research, investigation and litigation that no 10 attorneys could ever handle it—even if they were the best attorneys in America.
35/ So those saying this probe will be done soon are—intentionally or negligently—selling a bill of goods about how complicated the probe is that's fraudulent. Congress may—for political reasons—wrap up its probes by spring, but Mueller won't. A 2019 end is far more likely. {end}
PS/ None of this takes into account the possibility that seemingly ancillary threads will be seen as closely enough linked to Russia—or capable of turning Russia witnesses, even if unlinked to it—that they become "live": e.g. Erik Prince spreading Russian propaganda pre-election;
PS2/ The influence Giuliani appears to have used with the FBI's New York office to convince them to (or simply liaison with them about) fraudulently re-opening then slow-walking the re-opening of the Clinton email case; the 2002 Miss Universe pageant Trump tried to fix for Putin;
PS3/ Trump's dealings in/around Russia and Russians in 1987, 1996 and throughout the aughts; ex-Russian mobster Felix Sater and Bayrock suddenly appearing to rescue Trump from bankruptcy in 2002-2003; comments by GOP officials about Trump being on the take from Russia; and so on.
PS4/ And remember that even when Mueller's probe is done he must a) write it up in a 1000-page report; b) wait to see what Rosenstein will do about recusing himself; c) wait to see what Brand does with his referral; d) watch a lengthy political process *begin* in House Judiciary.
PS5/ So Mueller's probe is a) one phase of a lengthy process that'll lead to prosecutions and—in turn—further investigations and prosecutions; b) as to Trump, an investigative phase that continues with DOJ deliberations on any referral; c) going to—if history is guide—go *years*.
NOTE/ And none of this includes any of the potential state-level prosecutions of Trump or his cronies that are now being considered by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is said to be in regular contact with Bob Mueller about bringing pardon-proof criminal charges.
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