Mueller’s warning

Mueller’s warning
Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued a warning to US President Donald Trump’s lawyers, noting that the President could be subpoenaed in front of a grand jury..

Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued a warning to US President Donald Trump’s lawyers, noting that the President could be subpoenaed in front of a grand jury to answer questions.

The investigation concerns Russia’s alleged interference in US elections.

Background

In May 2017, the Department of Justice (DoJ) appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee the investigation into the Russian interference in US elections and related matters. He is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the elections.

In the past few months, the special counsel has brought charges against multiple people within the Trump campaign. Former Chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates have been indicted on 12 counts - including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and false statements.  Gates has pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought forward by the Muller special council investigation. Over the course of the investigation, Mueller has also indicted 13 Russians.

In addition, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about meetings with Russia's ambassador right before Donald Trump became president.

US President Donald Trump has often criticized the investigation and has maintained that there has been no wrongdoing on his part. He has also repeatedly noted that the investigation would end soon. It was reported in January 2018, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel.

Analysis

On April 10th, 2018, news emerged that the FBI had raided the office of Michael Cohen. He is Trump’s personal lawyer and has been part of his inner circle for many years. The raid took place after a referral from the special counsel. Among the documents that were seized, authorities also took papers connected to the $130,000 payment made by Cohen to a porn star, Stormy Daniels. She had claimed to have had an affair with Trump.

The media in the US have now reported that Mueller had broached the idea of subpoenaing Trump. The special counsel had reportedly done this during one of his meetings with Trump’s lawyers. Reports have been confirmed by the Washington Post and CNN. The exchange between special counsel investigators and Trump's lawyers, which took place in early March according to the Post, prompted Trump's then-lawyer John Dowd to respond, "This isn't some game." "You are screwing with the work of the President of the United States," Dowd continued, two people with knowledge of his comments told The Washington Post.

It should be noted that John Dowd is no longer representing Trump in this matter. In fact, other media reports have suggested that Trump has found it difficult to retain counsel to represent him in this case. In April 2018, Trump himself had floated the idea of firing Mueller and suspending the ongoing investigation. “Why don't I just fire Mueller?" Trump responded to a question from a reporter. "Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that's a big statement."

However, Mueller and the investigation have bipartisan support in Washington. Meanwhile, according to a report from Bloomberg, Trump’s current team of lawyers lacks the security clearances needed to discuss sensitive issues. These issues could also be related to a possible presidential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Even if Mueller believes that he has the authority to subpoena a sitting president, it has never been tested before in US history.

Assessment

Our assessment is that Mueller's investigation is one of the biggest threats to Trump's presidency. Hence, Trump might move to dismiss the special counsel Robert Mueller despite there being bipartisan support for the investigation. There are other implications that need to be considered. The investigation could negatively affect the Republicans during the upcoming mid-term elections. This could also interfere with US foreign policy issues such as the upcoming summit with North Korea. There are also concerns that the firing of the special counsel would send a bad message about the state of American democracy and its leaders.

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