He who doth protest too much comes to mind when thinking of President Trump’s latest Twitter rant, this time on the imminent charges to come in the inquiry into Russia’s interference in Trump’s election campaign in his favour. The charges, which as yet haven’t been laid out are due as early as tomorrow. We don’t know who is to be charged but Mr Trump is feeling the pressure as he took to Twitter this morning to rant about the “witch-hunt” against him and to blame the Democrats and, in particular, Hillary Clinton. The investigation is being led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI under both George W Bush and Barack Obama.
The President tweeted four posts on the inquiry, which combined read:
“Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia, ‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!”
About an hour later, no doubt after brooding for a while, he was back on Twitter to post:
“All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!”
The US intelligence agencies have already established that Russia attempted to help Mr Trump win last year’s election, and Mr Mueller’s inquiry is looking for evidence of this and is attempting to find links between Russia and the Trump team. Their inquiries have included interview several White House officials. The investigation has also expanded to include whether the Trump administration attempted to interfere or influence the investigation, as well as whether they have committed money laundering or tax evasion. Mr Mueller (pictured) was appointed special counsel by the Justice Department after President Trump suspiciously fired the director of the FBI James Comey in May. The fact that someone is going to be charged in the inquiry suggests that the inquiry has found concrete evidence of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Of course, Mr Trump has continued to deny everything, taking the chance to accuse Hillary Clinton of having dodgy links with Moscow herself. This includes a claim that Mrs Clinton secured donations for Bill Clinton’s charity in return for a uranium deal with a Russian company. A Congressional investigation has been convened into these allegations.
One of President Trump’s biggest defenders Chris Christie has spent today defending him and attack Robert Mueller and the investigation on various news programmes. He suggested that the investigation team were engaged in criminal leaks to the media, saying: “There are very strict criminal laws about disclosing grand jury information. Now, depending upon who disclosed this to CNN, it could be a crime.” The New Jersey Governor told ABC News: “We have to have the public have confidence in the fact that the grand jury process is secret and, as a result, is fair,” before saying that he hoped that the leaks were not traceable to Mueller’s team. He added:
“As a [former] prosecutor, I can tell you that was the thing that we emphasized the most with our prosecutors and our agents was, ‘Let me tell you something: we will prosecute you if we find that you leaked this stuff’.”
Mr Christie was also asked if he thought that Donald Trump would pre-empt any charges by giving pardons, Mr Christie said:
“I’ve never seen the president talk about that. That’s a very important power to use and I haven’t heard the president say anything like that, and I think we shouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves, Certainly, those people shouldn’t be sitting around saying, ‘Hey, no problem’.”
Governor Christie tried to emphasise that wherever the investigation leads, it is not the President who is being investigated: “The last public word we have on any of this is that the president himself is not under investigation.” This may be true, but Mr Trump cannot hope to avoid the consequences if the investigation into his administration and his campaign team finds collusion with Russia. Legally, the President may be above the fray but morally hand politically he is deep in the mire. His tweets today only help to emphasise his concern about the inquiry into his people.
Another Trump supporter who is emphasising rather unconvincingly that this all has nothing to do with the President is Corey Lewandowski, who was Mr Trump’s campaign manager before he was replaced by Paul Manafort. Mr Lewandowski told Fox News:
“Let’s take a deep breath and wait and see what happens on Monday. Let me be very clear – that this has nothing to do with the President.”
It is not inconceivable that President Trump will use his power of pardon to protect his friends. He has already set a precedent when he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was facing a civil suit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for racial profiling when detaining Arizonians who looked to be Mexican or Latin American. A judge had found that his actions constituted racial profiling and he was found in civil contempt of court and was awaiting sentencing when Mr Trump pardoned him.
The Mueller inquiry seems to be focusing on some of the President’s closest advisers, such as his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his campaign manager Paul Manafort. They have also questioned former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and his former Chief of Staff Prince Priebus. It seems unlikely that Mr Trump will not try to protect these with pardons if necessary when he’s done the same for Sheriff Arpaio, who was a leading political supporter of Mr Trump during his campaign.
Others today weren’t so supportive of the President. Preet Bharara, who was fired by Mr Trump from his role as US Attorney for New York, said: “You want to be pursuing people and pressuring people who have information of an incriminating nature above you in the food chain.” He was speaking on CNN’s State Of The Union. Mr Bhara, who now works for CNN, said that the President’s tweets demonstrate that he feels threatened and said::
“[The public should] see if the president of the United States is sending a message of intimidation in some way, through himself and his cohorts. [Hints at pardons could be an attempt to send] a message of reassurance”.
Who is facing charges is not known, so as you can imagine speculation is rife as to who it might be. One possible candidate is President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort (pictured) who, as the head of his campaign, I’d imagine would have been most likely to have been aware or involved in any collusion with Russia. Mr Manafort, however, has said that he has not been informed of any charges against him. Mr Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016 when his dealings with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych emerged. In June 2016 he had been one of several members of Trump’s team to meet with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. She is also said to have offered the Trump team incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.
Whatever comes of charges tomorrow we can be certain that the inquiry is ongoing and isn’t going to end any time soon, much to the President’s dismay. This idea is supported by a former Justice Department official during the Obama administration who thought that the fact that charges area laid shows that the inquiry would be a “rolling investigation.” Speaking to Axios.com he continued:
“Rather than conduct his entire investigation and then wrap things up with indictments and possibly a report at the end, he is doing it in stages, the way the Justice Department might attack a drug cartel or a mafia family. This is a a watershed moment for the politics surrounding the investigation. In less than six months on the job, Mueller has already returned indictments. This isn’t a fishing expedition or a witch hunt – it’s an investigation that’s already born fruit with a grand jury of regular Americans finding probable cause that a crime was committed.”
Sources & Further Reading:
- Russia: The ‘cloud’ over the Trump White House – The BBC – 29 September 2017
- Trump rages on Twitter at Clinton and Russia inquiry ‘witch hunt’ – The BBC – Sunday 29 October 2017
- Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections – Wikipedia
- Russia inquiry: Trump sends barrage of angry tweets as charges reported – The Guardian – Sunday 29 October 2017 – by Molly Redden
- Paul Manafort: Trump former campaign manager ‘not aware’ of possible criminal charges against him – The Independent – Sunday 29 October 2017 – by Andrew Buncombe in New York
- ‘Not at all presidential’: Trump swipe at Michael Moore provokes Twitter tirade – The Guardian – Sunday 29 October 2017 – by Martin Pengelly
- Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio may not be upheld by a US court – The Independent – Thursday 31 August 2017 – by Mythili Sampathkumar in New York