Everyone’s been saying this for months: special counsel investigations take a life of their own, and tend to widen or narrow as leads are pursued. Let’s be real here. The moment Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel, President Trump was under investigation.
Trump, his family, his aides, his transition team, his business associates, and anyone who could possibly have had dealings with Russia and any of them are subject to investigation.
While we all expected Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort to be under the microscope, they’ve already been under the FBI’s microscope since last summer. If there was any bombshell ticking away on either of them, it would have gone off long ago. Flynn’s lies are certainly troubling, but he already got his punishment for that, despite Trump’s fierce loyalty to defend him.
This investigation will focus where the FBI may have looked in a cursory fashion, but never fully explored. It will focus on Trump and his family first. Hence, Jared Kushner’s meetings with Russians, his business relationships, and his role in the White House will become more and more front-and-center.
Could this turn out to be another Scooter Libby incident, where a White House official gets charged for something only marginally relevant to the initial investigative umbrella?
I don’t think Kushner was out there colluding with Russia for his father-in-law to win the election. I’m not certain Kushner expected–or wanted–Trump to win. But once he did, Kushner was all-in to ensure the presidency would succeed, despite Trump’s own self-cratering tendencies.
Back in May, Ryan Lizza wrote in New York Magazine that Kushner has lawyered up well.
Kushner’s lawyer, Gorelick, is a well-known Democrat, and was Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration. She is no stranger to the ways that the F.B.I. operates. She also knows Congress and how to navigate the committees that want Kushner to testify. Certainly, she is likely to have good relationships with Hill Democrats, who are far more aggressive with respect to the Russia investigation and have already targeted Kushner specifically.
In Washington, D.C., personal connections and character are extremely important. It’s becoming more and more clear that almost nobody outside of a quickly-shrinking circle trusts the president. And those who do are nervous.
Donald Trump has spent his entire life fighting “witch hunts” from media, business adversaries (and partners!), and legal quarters. He’s never been under this level of scrutiny, of course. But his decades dealing with lawyers (who he generally scorns) and politicians has made him supremely confident he will survive and investigation.
He doesn’t use email. His tweets are frequently contradictory and subject to misinterpretation. In his phone calls and personal meetings he’s very careful to keep specific orders well inside his safe zone, but to use leverage words like “loyalty” and “good job” to direct others. You won’t find a smoking gun on Trump.
I doubt that any tapes exist, although if they do, I believe they’ll just prove what I just wrote above.
The problem is much more severe for those around Trump. Kushner may, just possibly, find himself at some point contradicting his father-in-law and boss to preserve his own skin. Trump will likely walk from this intact. (Democrats won’t try for an impeachment without a smoking gun, and definitely not before getting some major wins in Congress–that means after 2018.)
Others in Trump’s orbit should follow suit with Kushner, and not listen to the insane advice of Trump’s personal lawyer, who allegedly advised everyone not to seek counsel.
When Mueller’s men (and women) come knocking at the door, it’s best to have your counsel already retained. They are going to do a lot of door knocking.