Donald Trump and lawyers blast Robert Mueller at one-year anniversary
WASHINGTON — Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller marks one year on the job Thursday, but no one at the White House is celebrating — especially President Trump.
“Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History … and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction,” the president tweeted early in the day.
The tweet was another part of an ongoing effort to pressure Mueller’s office into ending its investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 election, at least as it pertains to the president.
“We are going to demand an answer,” said Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, speaking on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle.
Indications are, however, that Trump and his supporters face a second year of uncertainty as they and their critics try to figure out what Mueller plans to do.
While Trump has repeatedly denounced the investigation as a “witch hunt;” his critics say Mueller and his prosecutors are building a major case against the president and his aides — but the fact is no one beyond Mueller’s office knows for sure.
The Mueller team has leaked few if any details of the case, leaving observers to guess what they are up to, based on leaks from defense attorneys, grand jury witnesses, and the charges that have already been filed.
“Bob Mueller runs a very tight ship and that ship does not leak,” said David Kris, an attorney and founder of Culper Partners consulting firm.
A former Department of Justice lawyer who has worked with Mueller in the past, Kris said “he is the very opposite of a media hound.”
Trump associates, meanwhile, believe the public is turning against Mueller, questioning the length of the investigation and some of the tactics of the FBI.
Sam Nunberg, a former long-time political adviser to Trump who testified before a grand jury in the Russia case, said “I believe the Mueller investigation is in a precarious situation right now, from a political point of view.”
Others point out that Mueller can’t wrap up any time soon because he is missing key material: testimony from the president himself.
The two sides are negotiating rules for possible Trump testimony, amid concerns from the president’s team that prosecutors may try to lay a “perjury trap.”
Giuliani said last week he hoped to have some kind of agreement in place by Mueller’s one-year anniversary, but it looks like that may not happen.
The president’s lawyer also said he expects Mueller to file a report with the Justice Department, and that his office lacks the authority to indict a sitting president if there is evidence of wrongdoing.
In the meantime, Mueller’s team is also pursuing cases.
His office has indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 19 people, including Russians accused of election interference efforts as well as prominent people in Trump’s orbit — a “pretty substantial amount” of work for a year on the job, Kris said.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is charged with conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets related to his pre-election work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty.
Long-time Manafort partner Rick Gates faced similar charges, but pleaded guilty to false statement and conspiracy charges. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements, as has campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. They too are working with Mueller’s office.
While some attorneys said the Trump team’s attacks on Mueller could backfire, Giuliani said he and the president have no choice but to fight back.
“Somebody has to defend the president,” Giuliani said Thursday on Fox & Friends. “That’s my job.”
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