A leftover from yesterday that caught Wolf Blitzer off-guard, of note mainly because it dovetails perfectly with what Jonathan Turley warned about yesterday. Like I said last night, the odds that Mueller is going to blow up Trump’s presidency by producing evidence that gets him impeached are small. The odds that Mueller is going to get Trump to blow up his own presidency by indicting a Trump family member are much better. Watch, then read on.
I don’t think Steve Cohen is speaking there based on anything secret he knows as a member of the Judiciary Committee (it’s the Intelligence Committee that’s taken the lead on Russiagate) but it’s not outlandish to believe Don Jr or Jared might end up getting pinched. Like Turley noted, we’re really only one witness away from making that happen — and Mueller has at least one campaign insider, Rick Gates, cooperating with him already. There might be a draft indictment for Junior or Jared, or both, sitting on a computer in the special counsel’s office as I write this. Which, if so, would mean it’s a matter of time before American politics takes a sharp, unpredictable turn.
Whether or not Cohen’s right about the indictments, I think he’s right (and Turley is wrong) about how Trump would deal with it — with pardons, not firings. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mueller has stayed away from Don Jr thus far, and that by all accounts he’s focused on wrapping up the obstruction investigation before finishing up the collusion probe. That seems backwards at first blush, doesn’t it? You would think a prosecutor would amass all the evidence on the underlying crime of conspiracy with Russia, assuming there’s any crime at all, and then turn to whether Trump or his underlings attempted to prevent investigation of that crime. Instead Mueller’s doing it the other way around, finishing off the obstruction inquiry while the collusion inquiry forges on. How come?
Could be a purely logistical thing, of course. The collusion probe is far more complex, it’s necessarily going to take more time, therefore they might as well get the obstruction probe out of the way and focus on the heart of the matter. That’s good for the country too, as no one wants the president operating any longer than necessary under a cloud of suspicion about obstruction. Resolve that ASAP if you can. That’s what Mueller’s doing. But maybe he’s also focused on handling obstruction first because he suspects the same outcome Cohen and Turley and I do if he were to hold off on that until the collusion investigation is done — namely, he thinks Junior and/or Jared would end up being indicted and Trump would fly off the handle, firing or pardoning everyone and maybe even somehow closing down the Russiagate probe in the process. If there’s even a tiny chance of that (and there may be a *tiny* chance), then logically Mueller should focus first on the part of the investigation that’s most likely to implicate Trump himself. That’s obstruction. If he accuses Trump of that and then POTUS flies off the handle and fires everyone, at least the public and Congress would have the obstruction facts and could deal with Trump as they wished. Going after Don Jr first for collusion and Trump flipping out would mean the whole probe melting down, potentially, before reaching that point.
There may be another strategic element to doing obstruction before collusion. If Mueller accuses Trump of some sort of wrongdoing on obstruction, *maybe* that’ll make Trump less likely to pardon his cronies if they end up getting indicted for collusion-related reasons. An obstruction accusation against Trump would at least make impeachment a topic of public discussion, even if there’s near-zero chance House Republicans would do it. But the pressure they’d face from both sides over whether to protect POTUS on the obstruction charge would make them even more nervous about Trump then doing something dramatic on the collusion front, like handing out pardons or firing anyone. That might force Trump to hold off for awhile … although, in the end, it’s inconceivable that Trump would let his kid go to prison. They could have videotape of Don Jr sitting around a computer with GRU agents reading the Democrats’ emails and Trump would free him on grounds that “he’s been through enough” or “the deep state framed him” or whatever. There’s no way Don Jr does any time, no matter what he’s accused of, but the mere fact of pardoning him out of hot water would further damage Trump’s presidency. Addressing obstruction before collusion might be Mueller’s way of ensuring that it does maximum damage if Trump ends up going that route.