Mueller’s investigation gets closer to Trump
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation appeared to be zeroing in on President Trump himself this week, with multiple news organizations reporting that prosecutors were questioning witnesses about the activities of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and casting a wide net for documents and emails concerning the president and his advisers. Former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg revealed that Mueller’s office had served him with a subpoena demanding all documents involving Trump and nine of his closest advisers going back to Nov. 1, 2015. In a series of rambling TV interviews, Nunberg asserted that he would defy the special counsel’s orders, before later backing down, and suggested that he believed Mueller’s team “may have something” on the president.
The special counsel’s office also appears to be scrutinizing the influence of foreign money on Trump’s campaign and political positions. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates and has made frequent trips to the White House since the election, is now cooperating with Mueller’s probe, according to The New York Times. Nader attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with informal Trump adviser Erik Prince, founder of private security firm Blackwater, and a Russian businessman with close ties to Vladimir Putin. The purpose of that meeting has been a puzzle to U.S. officials since intelligence agencies picked up on it in the final days of the Obama administration.
What the columnists said
“Mueller’s investigation is clearly now going into the deepest, darkest corners of Everywhere,” said Charles Pierce in Esquire.com. Virtually everyone in Trump’s orbit appears to be in the special counsel’s crosshairs, and Mueller keeps uncovering the stench of corruption. “It’s the money. It’s the Russians. The whole damn dirty deal is one great writhing ball of poisonous snakes, and Mueller seems to be perilously close to untangling it.”
Don’t get too excited, said Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. Nunberg was a marginal figure in the Trump campaign who was unceremoniously shoved out in August 2015. “It is difficult to imagine” what he could possibly have to offer Mueller. Nunberg was undeniably a “bit player,” said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. But we know that Russian intelligence saw Trump’s chaotic and disorganized campaign as an “irresistible target” and “repeatedly attempted to penetrate it.” As a result, “the Mueller team has a huge number of leads to investigate.”
“Trump stands behind a final redoubt: Nobody has shown he conspired with Russia in 2016,” said John Harwood in CNBC.com. But what we do know is worrisome enough, including his shady pre-election business dealings in Moscow, his staffers’ meeting with Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and his apathy toward Russian election meddling. No matter what the special counsel eventually concludes about Trump’s relationships with Russia, the public evidence “already paints a jarring picture.”