Mueller haunts the West Wing…
It’s not only an Axios headline, it’s also the truth. And according White House insiders, the Mueller investigation continues to heat up.
As it has become clear that Mueller’s investigation has now turned toward Trump’s White House team, Republicans close to the White House believe Mueller is absolutely ‘going for the kill’ in the exhaustive search for links between Trump and Russia.
According to Axios, there is a very good reason Vice President Mike Pence decided to hire a lawyer. They also claim there is a good reason why Steve Bannon “freaked out” about it, and why Muller is now targeting those closest to Trump as part of his investigation.
White House aides with legal exposure to these events have quickly reached four conclusions, according to conversations with Jonathan Swan and me:
- Mueller is burrowing in hard on the obstruction of justice angle.
- The “angry, meandering” draft White House justification for firing Comey — which was never released, but obtained by Mueller — could be used as evidence of Trump’s unvarnished thinking when venting to staff.
- Legal fees, with white-collar attorneys charging $1,000 an hour, get cripplingly expensive pretty quick. Watch for outside legal defense funds to pop up quickly.
- The investigation’s financial dimensions are worrisome. The focus on Michael Cohen, a Trump lawyer and confidant whose business dealings are intertwined with the president’s, has been particularly troubling for those in Trump’s close orbit. Cohen dealt with some colorful characters. And when plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow are fully picked apart, other questionable Russian characters may be drawn in.
All this, say Republicans close to the situation, “from his hiring of Mafia and money-laundering experts to his aggressive pursuit of witnesses and evidence — is that he’s going for the kill.”
This despite the fact that Trump publicly warned Mueller to stay away from his private financial dealings. That, says Newsweek‘s Jason Le Miere, is exactly what special counsel Mueller is doing. But Trump’s warnings may not have any teeth, especially after his former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and explained that Trump’s firing of FBI Director, James Comey, was the single biggest mistake in modern political history.
All this news comes as multiple reports suggest that Mueller’s investigation has picked up speed recently, including his initiation of a federal grand jury to sift through all of Mueller’s findings, his issuing of subpoenas related to Trump Jr.’s now infamous meeting with a Russian attorney (a meeting that also included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner and Trump’s former national campaign manager, Paul Manafort).
Newsweek goes on:
Such is the scale of Mueller’s investigation that legal fees for those coming under the probe’s focus are mounting sharply, to the extent that outside legal defense funds could soon be necessary, Axios reports. More Trump aides are said to have lawyered up in response to a draft letter from Trump explaining his reasons for firing Comey, which was never sent and has not been published but has been obtained by Mueller. The letter was handed out to several White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, according to The New York Times.
Despite Trump’s repeated insistence that he has been told he is not personally under investigation, the president is possibly facing very real personal consequences. Based on conversations with White House aides, Axios says that Mueller is narrowing in on a possible charge of obstruction of justice against the president.