August 5th, 2017

Listening to Trump surrogates on the radio attempt to make a nothing burger out of the grand jury empaneled in Washington D.C. this week made me wonder: if there was already a grand jury working on the collusion-with-Russia case that had been working for months, what was the big deal about the news of this new grand jury?

Julian Borger, writing in White House as crime scene: how Robert Mueller is closing in on Trump for The Guardian, makes the difference clear:

The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, former FBI chief Robert Mueller, had been using a sitting grand jury in Virginia to authorise his team’s demands for documents and witnesses. The convening of a separate grand jury in Washington suggests the Mueller team—working in a suite of offices a few blocks’ walk from where the 20-odd jurors sit—is going to be making extensive use of it. It will not be hospitable terrain for the president. Trump won only 4% of the vote in the District of Columbia.

While Trump’s dream team of lawyers can petition for a change of venue (perhaps to Huntington, West Virginia?) once criminal charges are brought, there is no such change possible for a grand jury. Their best bet at this point is, if they haven’t already done so (and they can somehow manage to keep them from being leaked) to draw up the presidential pardons while President Donald John Trump still has that option.

Mueller’s case is inexorably moving into Nixonian territory. Borger continues:

In the Watergate scandal, to which the Russian influence affair is drawing inevitable comparisons, it was the cover-up that ultimately proved fatal to Richard Nixon’s presidency. It is increasingly possible the same fate could befall Trump. On Tuesday, after adamant denials from Trump’s lawyer, the White House admitted that Trump had “weighed in as any father would” in drafting a misleading statement about his son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer with strong Kremlin and intelligence links. The statement said the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children by US nationals. An email exchange released later by Donald Trump Jr showed that the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was in fact offering damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

Just as a third-rate burglary threw open the doors to the Nixon White House, so to may the now infamous 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, give Mueller and his growing team of financial crimes prosecutors finally give Americans(and the courts access to President Trump’s money maneuvering. According to Borger:

Almost all the 16 lawyers now on Mueller’s team are specialists in money-laundering and other financial crimes, suggesting that the investigation will spend much of its time unwinding the complexities of the Trump and Kushner real estate empires, looking for where the money has come from to keep them afloat. The latest hire, Greg Andres, is a former deputy assistant attorney general who used to run a unit that targeted foreign bribery.

“The Mueller dream-team now has the top 14 financial crimes prosecutors in America,” said Malcolm Nance, a former US intelligence officer and the author of a book on Moscow’s role in the 2016 US election, The Plot to Hack America. Nance predicted that the Mueller investigation would look into every corner of Trump and Kushner’s past business dealings.

“The wheels of justice grind finely and slow but this is a wood chipper, and all these various items and going to get fed into it—Flynn, [Jared] Kushner, Trump, Manafort and anyone who has been assigned to the White House over this period,” Nance said. “Their entire lives are going to be subjected to scrutiny. No one is getting out unscathed. That’s why Trump is so terrified.”

We won’t have full answers until 2018, possibly 2019, but while this investigation continues, and tars every Republican running for re-election next year with a Trumpist brush, the nation’s agenda is set.

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