Will Robert Mueller Drop More Indictments Before Election Season Heats Up?
There is no actual rule that says Robert Mueller can’t issue reports, court documents, or indictments within a sixty-day window of the election. That’s particularly true in this case, where exactly none of the principals involved in the investigation are on the ballot in November. The idea that Mueller can’t, or won’t, continue to bring on the surprises right up until Election Day is really more of a hopeful statement from Republicans looking for a few days in which they can jump on the “witch hunt” train, without facing fresh revelations that make Trump’s position even less enviable. There’s no such rule, regulation, or even official guideline.
Rudy Giuliani may be pretending that there’s a line in the sand, but there’s not even any sand. A prime example of just how much investigations don’t face any such restriction requires only looking at the 2016 election and the actions of one Comey, James.
However, just as many prosecutors expect the special counsel to play it extremely conservative when it comes to the rule saying that Trump can’t face indictment from the DOJ while parked in the White House, many also expect that he’ll follow a broad interpretation of informal guidelines suggesting that investigations lay low during the two months proceeding an election. If that’s true—and it’s a big if—that means that there’s a clock tick-tick-ticking on any actions that might come down between now and the first week of November.
What could happen in the next week? Almost anything. Mueller might decide to indict Trump’s long-time friend and gleeful “dirty trickster” Roger Stone. After all, Stone has already been raising money off of ads saying that Mueller is going to indict him. Mueller might as well give Stone somewhere to spend those funds.
Stone isn’t the only one who could be facing charges. Though Michael Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis seems to have fouled his own nest by giving contradictory statements to the press, it still seems clear that the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump’s top campaign officials and a selection of Russian operatives remains a focus for Mueller. So does money-laundering and financial crimes. That combination suggests that paperwork might also be heading toward either Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner—a result that would end the tick-tick-tick with a bang.
Should Mueller make a move directly against Trump or a member of his family, it could generate a “nuclear” response. In addition to pressing senators to support firing attorney general Jefferson Sessions, Trump has ramped up his threats to “get in there” and take direct control of the DOJ and FBI—a threat he repeated at his Indiana rally on Thursday night.
However, attempting to clean house at the Department of Justice wouldn’t be the best lead in to the election. With Republicans already promising Trump that he can have all the autocracy he wants, if he’ll just wait until the votes are cast, he might decide to sit, fume, and tweet for the weeks until the ballots are turned in and he can clean out Quantico to make room for very special chambers for interrogating suspected Democrats.
There’s always the chance that Mueller might even decide to drop a report in advance of the deadline. It’s not a good chance, because everything that’s been seen lately indicates that the special counsel’s office is still collating its case, still chasing down leads, and still looking to cooperating witnesses—such as Michael Flynn, whose court date was just delayed again—to fill in remaining gaps.
Mueller might decide that he has enough to go on some section of the case. Maybe the NRA-Russia connection. Maybe the cooperation of Republicans strategists like Aaron Nevins who helped the Russians locate the most valuable documents in their stolen horde as well as providing stolen information to GOP politicians. All of this is possible. Mueller might even be ready to go on that area where most Americans already agree that Trump is guilty—obstruction of justice.
But … none of that is all that likely. It’s possible that Mueller brings additional charges this week or next week. It’s also possible that he sets aside any imaginary rule and simply drops a crap ton of indictments the day before the election. After all, this is the guy who indicted a brace of Russian operatives on the eve of Trump’s Helsinki meeting with Putin.
The clock is definitely ticking. But when it goes off, or what the alarm sounds like … we won’t know until it happens.