Mueller’s Silence is About To Get Louder — In a Big Way
There’s an old saying about how silence can be deafening Throughout his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller has imposed on his team an ironclad rule: nobody leaks and nobody speaks — out of court, that is. When he does “speak” it’s through things official court filings — indictments, plea agreements, sentencing memos — disclosing in compelling narrative fashion crucial details about his investigation and tantalizing clues about what might happen next.
But that eerie silence is about to become pretty loud and clear. This week, Mueller is due to make three crucial court filings — sentencing memos for Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. Each document will tell us something important about what the future holds for these defendants and, more importantly, about what Mueller knows and where he might be headed. By the end of this week, we will know much more about the strength of Mueller’s hand and the threat his investigation poses to President Donald Trump and his administration.
Michael Flynn pleaded guilty via a cooperation agreement, which means that Mueller now knows everything that Flynn knows. Yet Mueller has not made any moves or brought any new charges that are obviously based on Flynn’s cooperation. Flynn, who held high-level positions in the campaign and administration, know about any crimes committed by members of Trump’s team, including the president.
One thing is certain: much of the mystery surrounding Flynn, and his cooperation with Mueller, is finally about to be solved.
Michael Cohen is the big elephant in the room. His sentencing memo, filed last week in the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), lobbed two bombshells in Trump’s direction — one right at him and another close by. The direct hit came in Cohen’s assertion that he “participated in planning discussions” with Trump regarding hush money payments to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal, and that Cohen paid Clifford “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump — as Cohen previously stated under oath when he pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations.
If Mueller and the SDNY do concur with Cohen’s version of the facts — particularly on the campaign finance violation — then we will have, officially, federal prosecutors stating on the record that the President has committed a federal offense — causing an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and excessive campaign contribution.
Then there’s Paul Manafort. This one should be the main event. Last week, Mueller dropped a bombshell when he notified a federal judge that Manafort had breached his cooperation agreement by lying repeatedly to federal prosecutors and agents “on a variety of subject matters.” Mueller told the judge he would “file a detailed sentencing submission … in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement.”
Mueller is due to file that sentencing memo by Friday, December 7, and it promises to be a barnburner. Mueller has promised to lay it all out: the specifics of Manafort’s lies and the proof establishing the truth of the underlying matters. We do not yet know specifically what Manafort lied about. yes, we soon should know who Manafort tried to protect, what crimes those people committed with Manafort — or to Manafort’s knowledge — and what proof Mueller has of those crimes. This is going to get interesting, and loud.