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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, January 20, 2018

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Will 2018 be the year of Robert Mueller or Donald Trump?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Share on Facebook January 1, 2018, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 403

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - Despite the ups and downs that his administration has faced over the last year, the biggest trouble that has gripped the Donald Trump administration is the fear of the ever threatening probe being carried out by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

But while very little inside information has emerged from Mueller’s side, Trump and his administration have continued to disregard the Russia investigation. 

Now, the Russia collusion probe faces a crucial year ahead – however, despite Trump’s assurances, many fear that the President might not let Mueller finish the job.

As Mueller gets closer to Trump’s inner circle and secrets tumble out - the investigation is likely to produce further indictments and perhaps an interview with the president himself, however, for now, things are not certain to run smoothly.

Since May this year, when the probe was initially launched, special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted two former top aides to Trump and made plea deals with two others, including the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The White House has, over the last few weeks, adamantly stressed that Mueller’s work is almost done - however, not many believe this is true.

On Saturday, a day after Trump concurred that he has no idea when the probe would end, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.) warned that Mueller "knows far more than people think.” 

Pointing to a new report on the Trump campaign's alleged dealings with Russia, Lieu said that the report found that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos inadvertently triggered the FBI's investigation into Russian collusion by reportedly drunkenly telling an Australian diplomat details of Russians possessing Democratic Party emails.

Lieu tweeted, “Important story below. Keep in mind no one was really aware of George Papadopoulos until his guilty plea was revealed. That tells us Special Counsel Mueller knows far more than people think. And Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mueller. The White House should be scared."

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russians during the election, which were revealed to have been aimed at setting up a meeting between Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The former aide is believed to be cooperating with Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign during the election. 

He is also spearheading an older counter-intelligence investigation into Russian tampering with the election.

Regardless of the accomplishments and failures of the Trump administration so far - 2018 will certainly have more than one surprises in place for the President as former FBI and White House officials predict it is going to be a big year for Mueller. 

They expect the investigation of the White House to run through the summer at least, and the investigation of Russia’s election-tampering activities to last longer.

Meanwhile, a soon emerging alternative scenario is widely regarded plausible.

In this scenario, the president could decide to fire Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s direct supervisor in the justice department. 

However, this would result in a desperate public struggle, to preserve the essence of Mueller’s investigation, even as the national discourse explodes with alarm over what kind of slide the country is on and what is at the bottom.

According to Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent and senior lecturer at Yale University, in one scenario, Mueller uncovers evidence of criminality on the part of Trump personally, and then – what?

Rangappa said, “If he [Mueller] gets to the point where there’s maybe enough evidence to bring charges, there’s a big question mark on what he does with that. Because it’s not entirely clear as a matter of constitutional law whether you can indict the president. So what does he do at that point? It will create basically a big constitutional crisis.”

Andrew Wright, a former White House associate counsel under Barack Obama and a professor at Savannah Law School said, “I’m not 100% sold that he has the authority to issue a report to Congress. I’m not sure he doesn’t. Traditionally, Department of Justice regulations don’t allow for a report like that in a criminal investigation, because the indictments speak for themselves and they speak in court. That same principle could potentially govern the special counsel’s office.”

According to experts, Mueller’s clear imperative is to submit a report to Rosenstein detailing what charges he has decided to bring, what charges he has declined to bring, and why. 

However, that scenario, in turn, assumes that Rosenstein is around to receive the report, which is not a given.

In mid-December, the Washington Post reported that behind closed doors, Trump has called Rosenstein weak and ranted that the deputy attorney general is a Democrat, however, he is a Republican. 

Analysts have indicated that currently, however, Mueller does not appear to be more than midway through his work.

Rangappa explained, “These are complex investigations. I think we have many more months to go.”

She added, “It’s very risky for Trump to kind of go all out against Mueller. Because if it backfires, like I said, this investigation is not going to go away. So the last thing Trump wants is another event added as evidence to a potential obstruction of justice charge. So he’s got to be very careful. Because I think he learned a very hard lesson from firing James Comey. That was a completely self-created debacle.”

 

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