A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Mueller, Trump and the truth
“By the end of this week, we will know much more about the strength of Robert Mueller’s hand and the threat his investigation poses to President Donald Trump and his administration.”
That’s according to CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, who explains it all in this new CNN.com piece.
It’s now widely believed that Mueller is using court proceedings to disclose crucial info – perhaps even writing his report in real-time. And this week, the special counsel is due “to make three crucial court filings – sentencing memos for Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.” Honig says “each document will tell us something important about what the future holds for these defendants and, more importantly, about what Mueller knows and where he might be headed.”
Flynn has been “something of a mystery man,” Honig notes. Maybe that’s about to change… Mueller’s sentencing memo for Flynn is due on Tuesday…
Per CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, the special counsel’s office indicated on Monday “that at least some part of the Manafort [sentencing] memo will be public.” So we’ll learn about what Manafort allegedly lied about. “Friday is the deadline for Mueller’s team to file a brief on the details,” Polantz says, but theoretically it could come sooner…
“Previously on The Russia Plot…”
The Russian interference in the 2016 election happened on several fronts. And Trumpworld’s contacts with Russians happened on many fronts. This scandal is incredibly complex – and I think journalists need to spend more time explaining what is known, what is unknown and what may never be known.
Otherwise, it feels like we’re turning on a show in the middle of episode 11… not knowing if this season is 13 episodes or 22… but definitely knowing that we’ve missed some key plot points.
>> Related: BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller says the Russia probe is “the best TV show Donald Trump will ever create.” Here’s her argument…
Notes and quotes
– Michael Isikoff’s brand new story for Yahoo uses the word “endgame:” He says “Mueller’s prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are ‘tying up loose ends’ in their investigation…”
– Numerous lawyers, including George Conway, said Trump’s tweet about Roger Stone could be a form of witness tampering and obstruction. Jeffrey Toobin on “AC360:” “This is potentially an abuse of power that could lead to impeachment…”
– Related: Honig told CNN’s Ana Cabrera: “If you look at the president’s tweets from this morning, if I was a prosecutor and we had a wiretap up on someone’s phone and they said those exact things that the president tweeted, I would say, ‘Wow, we just got him on obstruction.’ So, he’s really right on the edge…”
– Trump biographer Tim O’Brien said Trump sometimes speaks/tweets “to his former compadres like a mob boss…”
– Sara Murray on “CNN Right Now” with Brianna Keilar: “Part of the reason we are seeing this anxiety from the president on Twitter is that all of these bread crumbs are bringing this investigation closer and closer to President Trump, not just the people around him…”
Garrett Graff’s insights
Mueller biographer Garrett Graff on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources:” Trumpworld’s lies “sort of fold in on themselves in this story, lies on top of lies… So you don’t even know which set of lies to believe… I think the biggest challenge in this story is trying to connect all of these different dots, because we are really staring at the Mueller investigation through little soda straws or individual puzzle pieces, not really sure how everything connects.” Watch the segment here…
The bottom line
This is what Chris Cuomo asked on his CNN show Monday night: “Why do so many people around this president feel the need to lie about Russia? And why does he feel the need to be so sympathetic to Vladimir Putin’s cause? Are they connected?”
Cuomo ended his monologue by saying: “This week, we will get much closer to an answer” to the question about lying…
FOR THE RECORD
– “Oath, the owner of AOL and Yahoo, has agreed to pay about $5 million to settle charges from the New York attorney general that the media company’s online advertising business was violating a federal children’s privacy law,” Sapna Maheshwari reports… (NYT)
– New Republic editor J.J. Gould has resigned, and now an editor search is underway, Erik Wemple reports… (WaPo)
– The Washington Examiner says it is expanding its weekly magazine with a “nationwide subscriber footprint” starting in January… (The Hill)