Donald Trump denies having ties to Russia and calls the allegations against him “fake news” But the DOJ’s Bob Mueller’s not having it.
The former FBI Director was appointed as the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s special counsel for the Russia investigation after James Comey got fired. And as the White House frantically tries to spin away Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, the traps are being laid.
Yet Team Trump and their fans are still in denial. On Monday, Newsweek reports a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken last week shows only 33 percent of Republicans believe Russia meddled in our election. Compare that with the 80 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independent voters who think so, and you’ve got a major case of wishful thinking.
But denial only goes so far. While the GOP’s president tries to distract us with lies and bogus shenanigans like “Made in America” week, Bob Mueller’s putting together a crack legal team. On Sunday, Eric Garland, a strategic intelligence analyst, gloated: “Bob Mueller hired 25 of the nastiest prosecutors and built 2 SCIFs JUST FOR HIM!” SCIFS stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, secure rooms that are safe from prying eyes and ears.
These are in no particular order. Just feel the glee!
Bob Mueller hired 25 of the nastiest prosecutors and built 2 SCIFs JUST FOR HIM! pic.twitter.com/zwGbeBHIDf
— Eric Garland (@ericgarland) July 16, 2017
Bob Mueller has assembled a fearsome legal team to pursue the Russia investigation.
Last week CNN reported Bob Mueller’s hired at least 25 heavy hitters for his team. His latest is Peter Strzok, a senior-level FBI agent charged with probing Hillary Clinton’s emails. The report also mentions Bob Mueller’s team just moved into a new office that — unlike the DOJ’s headquarters — provides SCIFs, likely so they can pore over materials and question witnesses.
That’s not a good sign for Donald Trump. Nor is the fact that — as Business Insider wrote in June — the team also includes hard-hitting prosecutors from the Enron and Watergate probes. Among the few that have been publicly named are:
- Michael Dreben: The DOJ’s deputy solicitor general, seen as “one of the top criminal law experts in the federal government,” is also advising the Russia investigation part-time.
- Andrew Weissman: As the former chief of the DOJ’s criminal fraud unit, Weissman oversaw the prosecution of Enron’s chair Kenneth Lay, CEO Jeffrey Skilling, and 32 others involved in defrauding staff and shareholders.
- James Quarles: This litigator is well-known in legal circles and once served as an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
- Aaron Zebley: He once worked as an FBI agent and assistant US attorney, and specializes in national security, terrorism, and cybersecurity.
These kind of cases are tough nuts to crack, but Pro Publica points out Bob Mueller’s aggressive pursuit of Enron’s execs proves he’s got endless patience and a thick skin.
The frauds Enron was accused of were audacious. The company had hidden debt in a complex web of off-the-books companies and had faked its profits. Yet prosecutorial success was not inevitable. Skilling and Lay pleaded ignorance, blaming lower-level employees and arguing they had relied on the advice of their attorneys and auditors. The government did not have damning emails or wiretap evidence from either man. Prosecutors may face a similar challenge with Trump, who tweets but reportedly does not use email.
Harry Litman, a past U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and law professor at Princeton, also mentioned something in the LA Times we may have overlooked: The New York Times‘ discovery of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails and meeting with Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya likely reveals Robert Mueller’s “behind-the-scenes work.” While it would be hard to prove Donald Trump or his son committed a crime, the meeting proves Jared Kushner lied about his foreign contacts on the SF-86 form he filled out for his security clearance.
Prosecutions for lying on an SF-86 are rare, but they happen, and Kushner already has one strike against him: He first signed and submitted his SF-86 without listing more than 100 applicable contacts with foreign leaders or officials.
Back in the day, Bob Mueller took a similar approach to the Enron investigation and flipped their CFO, Andrew Fastow, by charging his wife with tax evasion.
Alas, there’s a wrench in the works for those who relish the prospect of the Trump administration’s demise. Former ABC News anchor Don Abram’s website, Law Newz predicts Trump will fire Bob Mueller within the next 100 days.
But here’s the thing. As Rick Wilson, a self-described “GOP media guy”, tweeted: “I’ve told you before; Trumpers have to be lucky *every* time. Mueller only has to be lucky once.
I've told you before; Trumpers have to be lucky *every* time. Mueller only has to be lucky once.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 16, 2017
Donald Trump can keep firing and replacing those who serve as the DOJ’s special counsel, but prosecutors will do what prosecutors do.