Another nice catch by a USA Today reporter to go with the one by Brad Heath in this post.
The floor is open, legal eagles. How much should we infer from the fact that there are four sealed indictments pending in D.C. federal court filed between George Papadopoulos’s document (#182) and the Paul Manafort/Rick Gates indictment (#201-B)?
One obvious question is how common sealed indictments are. Reilly counted them up and found that roughly 60 of the 188 criminal cases filed this year are currently sealed. One-third means any individual sealed case isn’t that uncommon. On the other hand, including the Papadopoulos and Manafort/Gates documents, this means there were no fewer than six sealed criminal cases filed in a 22-day span, starting with Papadopoulos on October 5 and ending with Manafort/Gates on October 27. That’s more than you’d expect over such a short period from a random distribution — but not much more. Lawyer Gabriel Malor says it seems like a normal amount to him, suggesting that the other sealed indictments might not be Mueller’s handiwork.
Another interesting claim:
Note, docket 17-200 almost certainly IS Trump related. Manafort's is listed as Indictment B.
(So maybe Flynn has already flipped) https://t.co/Bxa2RpezWK
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) October 30, 2017
The Manafort/Gates indictment, #201, is in fact marked “INDICTMENT (B)” but, again, I defer to lawyers on what that might mean. Does that mean two distinct indictments were filed simultaneously, A and B, or does it just mean that Mueller filed an amended second version of the indictment for whatever reason? Lawyer Ken White, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, seems to think that emptywheel’s suspicion is correct. I bet Tony Podesta, just to take a person totally at random, would be curious to know if she’s right too. Assuming he doesn’t know already.
Speaking of which, righties seem to be treating the looming specter of a Podesta indictment as good news on the theory that criminal activity by a prominent Democrat’s brother will dilute the political pain for Team Trump as this plays out. Eh, I’d think that through before settling on that conclusion. The last thing Trump wants is evidence that Mueller is being evenhanded in this prosecution. His spin all along has been that the Russia probe is a partisan witch hunt concocted by Democrats to delegitimize his presidency. A Democrat, especially one who doesn’t hold office, getting snared in it makes that argument harder without any real benefit to Republicans apart from being able to say, “Well, some of theirs are crooked too.” Of course that’s true but one side has much, much more to lose in this particular investigation of crookedness.
Here’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders doing her level best to spin today’s news. Manafort’s indictment has nothing to do with Trump, she notes, and Papadopoulos was a nobody on the campaign, all of which is fair enough. Today’s news is bad for the president not because it implicates him directly in anything but because it puts three accused lawbreakers inside his campaign operation last year *and* raises the possibility that Mueller is playing chess with these indictments and has only just made his first move. Which is why Reilly’s observation about the other sealed indictments is so intriguing.