President Donald Trump has said again and again that special counsel Robert Mueller probe in the Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election is a “witchhunt,” confected by Democrats and other anti-Trump forces to assuage their embarrassment about Hillary Clinton’s shocking defeat. But with every new revelation, it has become harder to undercut the investigation in any fundamental way.
The president’s most fervent backers, in both politics and the media, had hoped to derail the Mueller investigation by alleging of political bias.
Those hopes reached their peak with the publication of the so-called “Nunes memo,” in early February. The memo, written by members of staff for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) alleged misdeeds by the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
However, as noted by The Hill’s Niall Stanage, the waters of Robert Mueller’s investigation are rising higher by the day, putting President Trump and his inner circle in increasing legal and political danger.
A series of recent disclosures “have indicated that there is fire amid all that smoke,” said Frank Montoya Jr., a former FBI special agent who was also detailed to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
A report in The New Yorker has revealed that British intelligence services intercepted “a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow” during the 2016 campaign. “The content of these intercepts has not become public,” the report says.
Stanage also points out a number of other extraordinary developments.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mueller had gathered evidence suggesting a meeting in the Seychelles shortly before Trump’s inauguration was an attempt to create a back channel between his team and the Kremlin.
The special counsel is also said to be investigating whether Jared Kushner’s family business dealings influenced U.S. foreign policy.
In addition, Mueller’s team has reportedly secured the cooperation of a hitherto-marginal figure, Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Washington’s Dulles Airport in January.
And Nader’s emails are purported to reveal a push by a Republican fundraiser with links to the United Arab Emirates to get Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fired.
Put it all together and experts agree the perils for Team Trump are multiplying.
Mueller’s team is “digging deep into every element of a very complicated story,” said Harry Litman, a former deputy assistant attorney general.
“When they meet in the middle and complete the puzzle, it’s likely that a number of additional people will be going to jail and that Trump’s criminal conduct on one or more levels will be apparent.”
Former DOJ officials say that the recent revelations simply underline what some experts have pointed out repeatedly: that Mueller’s team knows far more than is in the public arena, and can reveal it at a time of their choosing.
“The system is not designed for us to know everything prosecutors are investigating and the tip of the iceberg we are seeing is far from the whole picture,” said Joyce White Vance, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama throughout the Obama administration. “But we do seem to be seeing more of the tip over time.”
Legal experts almost unanimously that there are more bombshells to come. That could be very bad news for the president and his allies.