Happy anniversary to the most crucial probe in American history

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, at the Capitol in Washington in June. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Donald Trump, eloquent as always, tweeted today: “Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History.” You could almost smell the flop sweat.

I’ll simply say: Congratulations America, we are now entering the second year of Robert Mueller’s exemplary probe – with vital assistance from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York – into the most serious national security breach of our electoral process in American history, and whether, or to what extent, the hostile power’s pet candidate and president abetted that breach and subsequently sought to obstruct investigators’ efforts to unearth the truth.

It was indeed one year ago today that Mueller, a registered Republican, was appointed to defend our democracy by investigating the sprawling cast of miscreants who have imperiled it. And Trump, for all his social media whining, has nobody to blame but himself, because it was his firing of FBI director James Comey that brought Mueller to the fore. As he told NBC News last May – in a remark that in itself could be construed as an obstruction of justice – he axed Comey in order to thwart the FBI’s investigation of “this Russia thing.”

Mike Pence, his most obsequious toady, says it’s time for Mueller to “wrap it up,” which is eerily similar to what scandal-soaked Richard Nixon said in the summer of 1973, when he decreed that the federal gumshoes should close down their probes and stop “wallowing in Watergate.” But it’s impossible to impose a time limit on the daunting job of rooting out systemic rot.

And even though 19 people (some of them senior Trumpists) and 3 companies have already been indicted or pleaded guilty, it appears that the best (or worst) is still to come. If we take the time to connect all the disparate dots, what we already know is staggering, but we need to remember that what we know is a fraction of what Mueller and his investigators (especially his money-laundering experts) know or strongly suspect. The tsunami of scandal stories during the past 24 hours alone is fresh proof that the perfidious Trump narrative remains a work in progress.

As the conservative Weekly Standard magazine smartly points out today, “It’s true that there’s been no evidence presented showing Team Trump collusion (with Russia) – but that’s because there’s been practically no evidence presented, period. Mueller has predictably run a tight ship, with leaks rare to nonexistent. In the short term, it’s given Trump defenders and opponents alike the chance to point to every development as proof of their preconceived notions. But if and until a public report from Mueller comes out, it’s impossible to know the full extent of what is known.”

Mueller will tell us only when he’s good and ready, as any seasoned investigator would do, regardless of how vociferously Trump and Rudy Giuliani yap from the sidelines. In the meantime, here’s a sampling of what we learned just yesterday, on the eve of the one-year anniversary:

Donald Trump Jr.’s eagerness to collude. The Senate Judiciary Committee released documents which show that Junior wanted to collude with the Russians during the ’16 election season. The hostile power had dangled the possibility of sharing dirt on Hillary Clinton, so Junior, after emailing “I love it,” set up the June ’16 meeting in Trump Tower. A former Soviet soldier who attended the meeting told the Judiciary Committee that Junior opened the meeting by saying, “I believe you have some information for us.” Alas, Junior didn’t get the info he sought. Junior himself told the committee that he wasted 20 minutes “hearing about something that I wasn’t supposed to be meeting about.” But the committee’s documents show that various Russians, including a senior executive from a Russian social media company, met with various Trump aides throughout the campaign.

By the way, on Fox News last night, Giuliani said this about the Trump campaign: “If there was collusion with the Russians, they would’ve used it.” Keep on talking, Rudy. Please never stop.

Michael Cohen’s missing bank records. Remember last week (seemingly a year ago), when we learned that Trump’s flunky-fixer had reportedly deposited, into his hush-money shell company, half a million bucks from an investment firm closely linked to a Putin-connected oligarch? Turns out, a whistle blower in law enforcement leaked that Treasury Department document to the press after discovering that Treasury records of more suspicious Cohen transactions, involving a lot more money, are mysteriously inaccessible. Those records, flagged by Cohen’s bank as suspicious-activity reports (SARs), are supposed to be logged in the Treasury database. But for some reason they’re not there. The whistle blower tells the indefatigable Ronan Farrow, “I have never seen something pulled off the system.” Why are those SARs not findable? And what’s in them?

By the way, the material in the leaked Treasury document “pales in comparison to the trove of financial records Mueller’s team is believed to have obtained on Donald Trump, including his tax returns, banking records, and phone records,” according to NBC News. Note that I’ve italicized one particular phrase.

Trump’s hush money admission. On Tuesday, obeying a federal deadline, Trump submitted a financial disclosure form that acknowledges, for the first time, that he reimbursed Cohen for expenses that the lawyer incurred during the ’16 campaign. Which squares with Giuliani’s statement, on Fox News, that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels. Which means that Trump erred, perhaps criminally, when he failed to list the expense on his ’17 disclosure form. Indeed, the federal Office of Government Ethics has referred the payment to Mueller’s overseer, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Translation: The OGE believes that Trump was legally required to report the payment last year (he arguably covered up an illegal campaign expense), so it essentially sent the Justice Department a criminal referral.

Russians and the NRA. That connection has been in the news for months, but this sentence from the Senate Judiciary Committee trove, gives it more authority: “The committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign.” The committee’s Democratic members made that assessment; Republican members stayed mum, natch. I’ll simply observe that if a Hollywood screenwriter had ever concocted a plot where the Russians helped elect an American stooge by funneling money through a gun group that’s now headed by a convicted illegal weapons peddler, the Hollywood suits would’ve nixed it as too preposterous.

So is it realistic to believe that the most consequential investigation in American history should be wrapped up any time soon? Only if you’re a bunker-dweller like Rudy Giuliani, who claims that he and Trump “have a Plan B and C” to make it happen.

Hey, guys. Knock yourselves out.

 

 

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