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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
, 21 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
To be clear, there are no circumstances under which Mueller could have named Trump as a target right now; it'd be as good as saying Mueller thinks Trump committed a crime (and given the present menu of crimes, an impeachable one) months before he's ready.…
2/ In telling Trump he's not presently a target, Mueller buys himself time—as Trump will dine out on not being the target of a federal criminal investigation (yet) for weeks and weeks (as if it's some sort of achievement). But by the end, Trump *will* be charged with Obstruction.
3/ If he'd named Trump a target, his shot at a voluntary interview would've (of course) disappeared. Mueller saying he's preparing a public report is smart: 1) it's not technically in his power, but 2) it makes Trump look—even more—like he's hiding something if he fires Mueller.
4/ I said a few days ago that—contrary to other experts—I thought the chances the public would never hear Mueller's evidence were nearly nil. And now here we are, learning straight from Mueller that he does indeed intend to issue a public report—and is bucking his role to do so.
5/ That said, *this* tidbit neither I nor anyone predicted: "Mueller’s investigators have indicated to Trump’s legal team that they're considering writing reports on their findings in stages—with the first report focused on the obstruction issue." *That's* a shocking development.
6/ Mueller's brief authorizes him to write just one report, and there are many reasons it'd make sense for him to do just that and no more. The one note I've made in the past is that if he issues a report finding Obstruction, it becomes virtually impossible for Trump to fire him.
7/ On the other hand, if he issues a report finding Obstruction, he's forcing Rosenstein to decide if he's going to initiate impeachment hearings before Mueller has indicated what—if any—crimes Trump participated in that he might have been trying to cover up. That'd be difficult.
8/ Mueller's case is weakened substantially if he sends up Obstruction to DOJ—and DOJ sends Obstruction over House Judiciary—before all the facts of the Russia investigation are known. That's why I'd always assumed that Mueller would steadfastly *avoid* writing multiple reports.
9/ This is also news, though many may miss it as such: "Trump’s attorneys expect the president would also face questions about what he knew about any contacts by his associates with Russians officials and emissaries in 2016, several White House advisers said." That's surprising.
10/ In the past, the White House—and reporters—only said Trump would be asked about Flynn's Russia contacts during the transition. "Any contacts by his associates in 2016" is a broader area of inquiry, and one I felt Mueller always should've been looking at for a Trump interview.
11/ Now we come to the BS part of the Post piece—which is of course where it summarizes Trump's views on all this: "The president has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview."
12/ Trump isn't "relieved" at anything. He knows he's guilty, continues to fear being caught, and knows a subject can turn instantaneously into a target at Mueller's will. For that reason he is not now—and never has been—planning to sit with Mueller for a free-ranging interview.
13/ If Trump believed in his own innocence, and that he'd never become a target, and that all his lying/obstructing in the past hadn't been enough for Mueller to want to charge him with anything, he'd sit down immediately for a no-holds-barred interview with Mueller—but he won't.
14/ Now, the silly part: "Several legal scholars and impeachment experts believe Mueller may conclude he does not have the authority to charge a sitting president with a crime under an opinion written by the DOJ in 2000." Yes, of course—but this fact is neither here nor there.
15/ No one in America, Trump included, is primarily focused on whether Trump will go to jail, as 99.9% of the impact of the Mueller probe for Americans lies in whether Trump will be *impeached*—which has nothing to do with whether a Special Counsel can indict a sitting president.
16/ In other words the matter of indicting a sitting president is—in fact—a non sequitur. Mueller can refer impeachable offenses to the DOJ, and the DOJ can refer impeachable offenses to the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee can refer them to the House.
17/ Mueller thinking he can't indict a sitting president may explain his statement to Trump's lawyers that Trump isn't a target. Is that because Mueller believes a sitting president *can't* be a target for indictment, or that he thinks—at present—Trump, POTUS or no, shouldn't be?
18/ In any case, Trump's allies will make far too much a to-do about this Washington Post article, whose ledes are interesting but (a) not identified as such by the structure of the article, and (b) way more important and newsworthy than the facts the article positions as ledes.
19/ Note: Mueller not having authority to issue a public report doesn't mean Rod Rosenstein can't (upon a finding of public interest in the case and a need for confidentiality waiver). So what the Post is implying is that Rosenstein "pre-cleared" Mueller issuing a public report.
20/ I say that because it would be unlike Mueller to say he's going to violate DOJ regulations of his own volition; clearly, he would have checked in with Rosenstein and gotten his blessing, first, for issuing a public report (which Rosenstein *would* review before release). /end
PS/ Naming someone a target isn't the same as accusing them of a crime, which is why I said "as good as" in this thread's first tweet. But if Mueller had named Trump a target today, every newspaper would've reported—not unreasonably—that Mueller expected to end up charging Trump.
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