As has been discussed ad nauseum, even if Mueller identifies criminal activity on the part of Donald Trump, Mueller will not indict a sitting president.
The real questions that should be asked are:
- Will Mueller identify coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign? This is Mueller’s original mandate.
- Will Mueller indict anyone from the Trump campaign with criminal conspiracy for this coordination? This follows from Mueller’s mandate.
- Will Mueller show that Trump was aware of the coordination and criminal conspiracy?
We already know the answer to the first question. The Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians directly and indirectly during the 2016 campaign. Here are 5 salient examples.
- Graf 44 of the July 2018 GRU indictment states that an American in contact with the Trump campaign was in touch with the Russian hackers in August 2016 discussing material stolen from the Clinton campaign. Roger Stone has admitted to being this American.
- Graf 11 of the January 2018 Roger Stone indictment states that in June 2016 Roger Stone was aware of stolen DNCC material before the DNCC publicly announced the hack.
- Graf 12 of the January 2018 Roger Stone indictment states that in July 2016 senior campaign officials were directed to contact Roger Stone about the stolen DNCC material.
- Court proceedings from the February 2018 Manafort hearing state that on August 2, 2016 Paul Manafort, while head of Trump’s presidential campaign, provided proprietary polling data to a Russian associated with the GRU.
- Court proceedings from the February 2016 Manafort hearing state that during the same August 2, 2016 meeting, the Russian associated with the GRU discussed sanction relief with Manafort.
Clearly the Trump campaign was interacting with the Russians. Mueller has already publicly identified some of this coordination. As well, paging through the Stone indictment and especially the Manafort proceedings, there are numerous redaction throughout. Mueller is aware of quite a few more interactions than he has made public. It is only a question of how deep this coordination ran.
Regarding the second question. It has been a source of puzzlement among people closely following Mueller’s progress why no Americans have been charged with activities related to the 2016 election. The charges to date have related to financial crimes before the election or false statements after the election.
Some have claimed that Mueller has not filed any indictments because there was no criminal activity during the election. This position is, at best, misguided, as criminality is apparent in the publicly released information.
Roger Stone’s activities, particularly his interaction with the Russian hackers, were criminal. Before Mueller is done, Stone will be indicted, at a minimum for conspiracy to hack the Clinton campaign, but also likely for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States in relation to his efforts with Russia to influence the election.
Paul Manafort’s activities, in particular his supplying of polling data to the Russians, appear criminal. Either Manafort stole the data from the Trump campaign, or Manafort acting as chairman of the campaign, was enlisting the aid of Russians to influence the election. Manafort will almost assuredly be indicted for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States.
Given that we know Mueller can charge at least two individuals who were part of, or associated with, the 2016 Trump campaign, why hasn’t Mueller filed any indictments? It goes to reason that Mueller is waiting to file multiple indictments at a later date, and not just for the above activity.
One might ask who else might be indicted? Mueller has yet to interview either Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner about the 2016 campaign. Given that Mueller has interviewed pretty well everyone else associated with the campaign, and give that both of these individuals were at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians during the campaign, it is telling that neither has been interviewed. An obvious conclusion from this is that both are targets of the investigation and likely will be indicted before Mueller is finished.
All evidence points to Mueller filing multiple indictments for conspiracy to defraud the United States. It is a foregone conclusion that Stone and Manafort will be charged. It is quite possible that Don Jr. and Kushner will be charged as well.
About the third question, will Mueller show that Trump was aware of the conspiracy?
This is the million dollar question. Has Mueller found a smoking gun linking Trump to a criminal conspiracy with the Russians?
Clearly Trump is involved with, nay in bed with, Russia. One would have to be willfully ignorant to not notice how Trump has consistently thwarted efforts to sanction Russia, and how Trump has gone out of his way to have private conversations with Putin. But that is not the question. The question is whether Mueller can prove that Trump agreed to conspire with the Russians.
Mueller has hinted that he has some evidence of Trump’s direct involvement. As noted above, the Stone indictment indicates someone directed senior campaign officials to reach out to Stone. Exactly who could direct senior campaign officials? Was that Trump?
We do not know, although Mueller undoubtedly does.
- Mueller has already shown that member of the, or people associated with the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians during the 2016 election.
- Information Mueller has released strongly suggests that individuals associated with the Trump campaign will be charged with criminal conspiracy.
- Mueller has yet to provide evidence that Trump was aware of, or involved in, this criminal activity.
So yes, I am still waiting with baited breath for Mueller to complete his investigation, and to see whether he implicates Trump in Russia’s efforts to influence the election.
Mr. Stueve’s explanation about the inadvertent filing left open the possibility that the language in the unrelated court document was lifted from a draft indictment written in preparation for eventual charges, not necessarily one handed up by a grand jury and sealed by a court.
Prosecutors claim Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife spent over $250,000 of campaign funds on personal items. Here is an explanation of the indictment filed on Tuesday.
Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were indicted on Tuesday, accused of spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses — including a vacation to Italy, family dental bills and plane tickets for a pet — and then lying to the Federal Election Commission.
.. Prosecutors said the two were reckless spenders, living beyond their means and racking up steep debts before deciding to use the campaign’s bank account.
.. 6. Throughout the relevant period, the HUNTERS spent substantially more than they earned. They overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period resulting in approximately $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees.
.. Their credit cards were frequently charged to the credit limit, often with five-figure balances, resulting in approximately $24,600 in finance charges, interest, and other fees related to late, over the limit, and returned payment fees.
.. 17. By virtue of these delinquencies — as well as notifications of outstanding debts and overdue payments from their children’s school, their family dentist, and other creditors the HUNTERS knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using Campaign funds.
.. In the fall of 2015, the family went to Italy, where they tried to use the United States Navy to justify their spending, prosecutors said. When that failed, prosecutors claim Mr. Hunter — a former Marine — had sharp words for the military.
On or about November 19 to 29, 2015, the HUNTERS spent $14,261.33 (including airfare) in Campaign funds to pay for a family vacation to Italy.
On or about November 23, 2015, in an attempt to justify the use of Campaign funds to pay for the family’s trip to Italy, DUNCAN HUNTER attempted to set up a day tour of a U.S. naval facility in Italy. After Navy officials responded that they could only provide a tour on a particular date, DUNCAN HUNTER said he would discuss the proposed date with MARGARET HUNTER, then subsequently told his Chief of Staff, “tell the navy to go f*** themselves [no alteration in original],” and no tour occurred.
.. 116) On or about March 20, 2015, when DUNCAN HUNTER told MARGARET HUNTER that he was planning “to buy my Hawaii shorts” but had run out of money, she counseled him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so that they could falsely describe the purchase later as “some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors.”
.. To conceal and disguise his illegal activity, he misled his Chief of Staff by describing his regular golf outing with Individual IA as “a Christian thing” with a supporter.
.. The Hunters even used campaign funds to buy plane tickets for a family pet so it could come on vacation with them, prosecutors say. (Reports indicate that the pet in question is a rabbit.)
98) On or about July 9, 2014, the HUNTERS spent $250 in Campaign funds at United Airlines to fly a family pet to Washington, D.C. for a family vacation.
.. the indictment point to a family struggling with debt and straining to maintain an upper middle class lifestyle.
.. But prosecutors said the family also spent campaign funds to keep their heads above water, using some of the money to keep their utilities from being shut off and to partially pay off overdue dental bills and tuition payments for their children.
.. 7) On or about August 5, 2015, in La Mesa, California, MARGARET HUNTER spent $700 in Campaign funds at a local dentist to continue to pay down the family’s overdue balance. In order to conceal and disguise this illegal payment, she told the Treasurer that part of the payment was a charitable contribution for “Smiles for Life.”
.. 139) On or about August 12, 2015, in El Cajon, California, MARGARET HUNTER spent $3,500 in Campaign funds to pay the family’s tuition bill at Christian Unified Schools- one of three different dates in 2015 that MARGARET HUNTER spent a total of $6,150 in Campaign funds to pay tuition. To conceal and disguise these illegal payments, the HUNTERS provided a number of conflicting explanations, including that the payments were charitable contributions.