What If The Mueller Investigation Comes Up Empty?

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

On Monday, President Trump took to Twitter to lash out at his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for cutting a deal with the Mueller investigation and then seeking to avoid jail time. Trump tweeted:

Aside from the identity of the aforementioned Scott Free, these tweets raise some serious questions. First, Trump appears to be suggesting that Mueller and his “Angry Democrats” are seeking to suborn perjury – to push Cohen and others from Trump’s orbit into lying about Trump-Russia collusion. There’s no evidence that Mueller or anyone else has pushed members of the Trump team into perjuring themselves. Second, Trump seems to be praising others – not Cohen, obviously – for pledging not to turn on him. This makes him sound more guilty than innocent; it will prompt questions of witness tampering from those unfriendly to him.

As Allahpundit at HotAir notes, Trump could be running afoul of tampering with regard to both witnesses and the judge who is sentencing Cohen – a judge who could read the tea leaves that he won’t earn a federal promotion anytime soon from Trump if he goes the wrong way.

But all of this underscores one serious problem for the Mueller investigation: every piece of legally dubious behavior here has arisen from ancillary Trumpian activity. No one has yet been legally convicted of election collusion. Not a person. Trump has not been implicated in criminal behavior at any step of the way. The original theory was that Trump had been involved in kompromat by the Russian government; no evidence. The next theory was that Trump’s team had actively worked with the Russian government to hack into the DNC; no evidence. The theory after that was that the Trump team had worked with WikiLeaks to weaponize and strategize the release of the emails; that evidence still hasn’t been provided, and might not amount to criminal activity in any case.

Thus far, here are the people who have pled guilty, and their crimes:

George Papadopoulos: Pled guilty to lying to the FBI, no evidence of underlying crimes with regard to collusion.

Paul Manafort: Pled guilty to counts related to work for Ukrainian politicians and tax issues.

Rick Gates: Pled guilty to a false statements charge and to conspiracy related to work with Ukrainian politicians.

Russian nationals: Indicted on conspiracy charges related to interference with the 2016 election, but with no actual relation to the Trump campaign.

Alex van der Zwaan: Pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI about contacts with Gates.

Michael Cohen: Pled guilty to tax and bank charges, as well as campaign finance violations, as well as lying to Congress about Trump business in Russia.

Andrew McCarthy has the correct take here:

[Mueller] knows that the legitimacy of his investigation is under attack, allegedly driven by politics rather than evidence of crime. But the convictions he has amassed, even if they are only for false statements or are otherwise unrelated to the Trump-Russia rationale for the investigation, prove that many people Trump brought into his campaign were corruptible and of low character. Mueller, the career Justice Department and FBI man, will deftly use this fact to argue that suspicions about these people, and hence the investigation, were fully justified even if — thankfully — there was no prosecutable Trump–Russia conspiracy.

This means that the most severe danger for Trump lies in his own statements to the FBI, to the American public, and in his behavior with regard to other witnesses. None of this has to do with the accusations made at the outset. But Bill Clinton was impeached on perjury charges related to lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and pressuring others to do so – and sleeping with Monica wasn’t a crime. Trump’s behavior outside of the election may do more to damage him than anything election related.

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