Sunday, May 21, 2017

Carry-on baggage: Trump, the FBI and the I-word

WHEN PRESIDENT* Donald Trump left Friday for his first foreign trip in his new job, he brought along two pieces of carry-on baggage he couldn’t have left behind if he tried. Both will have a lot to do with whether his first White House trip abroad is or is not his last.

First, of course, there was the surprise Wednesday announcement of Robert S. Mueller III, former FBI director, to assume the role of Justice Department Special Counsel investigating possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to subvert the process and/or results of the 2016 presidential election.

In a letter signed on Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to the post, and tasked the former Marine with leading a “full and thorough” investigation into the actions of the Kremlin in the run-up to the Nov. 8th election.

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Mueller is empowered to pursue “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Rosenstein’s letter also authorizes the Special Counsel “to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

A chorus of praise went up almost immediately, especially from those who remember Mueller’s long tenure as FBI Director.

“People are really torn up about what happened to Director [James B.] Comey — a good man who has treated very badly by the president,” a senior FBI official told Politico’s Philip Shenon. “The fact that the investigation is now going to be led by Mueller, who is so like Comey in so many ways and who also loves the bureau, is sweet justice.”

In his analysis piece for Politico, Shenon observed: “It’s hard to imagine that this new job is any more intimidating than the one Mueller confronted on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the newly arrived FBI director was forced to deal with the aftermath of terrorist attacks that left more than 3,000 people dead in New York and Washington and put the FBI’s very survival in doubt because of what would be shown to be its well-documented bungling before the attacks.

“Mueller had been on the job at the FBI for exactly one week. The fact that the FBI survived in one piece after multiple government investigations of 9/11, and that Mueller went on to serve another dozen years at the bureau and left with his reputation for independence and honesty largely unscathed, suggests to his friends and admirers that the blue-blooded 72-year-old former Marine is the right man for his new job—and that President Trump and his campaign advisers have much to fear from his investigation.”

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THE SECOND piece of baggage is as heavy as the first one. According to various sources, this was presented to Trump right before he departed from the United States, and it could be a much weightier matter, one he’ll be hard-pressed to ignore.

On Friday, writer-provocateurs Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor, writing in the Patribiotics blog, reported:

Multiple sources close to the intelligence, justice and law enforcement communities say that the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States.

Sources further say that the Supreme Court notified Mr. Trump that the formal process of a case of impeachment against him was begun, before he departed the country on Air Force One. The notification was given, as part of the formal process of the matter, in order that Mr. Trump knew he was not able to use his powers of pardon against other suspects in Trump-Russia cases. Sources have confirmed that the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to Mr. Trump.

As the drumbeat for investigation increases, we can expect to see and hear about more skeptical Trumpeters lawyering up, seeking to cut deals, hoping to satisfy their inner Monty Halls in the hopes of avoiding indictments.

And at some point, for the crowd that left the United States on Air Force One days ago, there’ll be quiet reflection in days to come about what’s necessary to stay out of prison. Maybe they’ll make it an extended vacation.

Image credits: Mueller: Doug Mills/The New York Times. Trump adios: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

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