|DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
In light of recent developments having next to nothing to do with President Trump's State of the Union speech (nine-word summary: "Let's work together you rotten motherfuckers let's work together"), it's worth pondering three questions: Is Robert Mueller nearing the end of his Russia scandal investigation? Why is the special counsel handing off so much juicy stuff to other prosecutors? And will the do-over of the whitewashed Republican-led Intelligence Committee investigation by newly energized Democrats have an impact?
While the president did slip a morsel of his trademark Trumpian Logic into the SOTU speech in an acknowledgement that those prosecutorial footsteps he's been hearing are growing louder ("If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation"), he has said and done nothing since that Democratic Blue Wave broke on the electoral shore last November indicating he's still not locked in a fantasy world of "witch hunt" denials as he watches colleague after colleague turn on him, become cooperating witnesses and, in the cases of his former campaign chairman and longtime lawyer-fixer, prepare to begin serving prison sentences.
In addition to the no fewer than 17 investigations outlined here, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) on Monday issued a barrage of subpoenas pertaining to Trump's inaugural committee, which raised a staggering and record $107 million but doesn't seem to know where much of the money went.
The subpoenas were broad and included possible charges of conspiracy against the U.S., false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, disclosure violations, and violations of laws that prohibiting contributions from foreign nations and contributions in the names of other people known as "straw donors" in order to protect the identity of the real donors and the dubious circumstances under which they coughed up big bucks. (Hint for the dimwitted: For access to Trump and his new administration where money would aways talk.)
That 18th investigation reportedly prompted Trump to ask Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who has been anything but the foil Trump intended in naming him, "why more wasn't being done to control prosecutors in New York," whom the president suggested were "going rogue."
And in an extraordinary rebuke to Devin Nunes and his Republican-dominated House Committee's conclusion last March in a party-line vote that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, new committee chairman Adam Schiff formally announced on Wednesday that the now Democrat-dominated committee will reopen the whitewashed investigation with a broad inquiry of their own, including scrutinizing "credible reports of money laundering and financial compromise" involving Trump’s businesses.
Other committees are zeroing in on Trump, as well. On Thursday, Democrats began their quest to secure a copy of Trump's kryptonite -- his long-suppressed tax returns -- and readied a subpoena for Whitaker should he refuse to answer questions at a hearing scheduled for Friday.
Trump, of course, called the investigations "ridiculous" and "presidential harassment," while House Speaker Pelosi in turn accused him of delivering an "all-out threat" to newly-empowered Democrats who are taking their oath to provide checks and balances on his power.
Meanwhile, there have been a flurry of scoops from the fake news media.
Two biggies were from BuzzFeed News, which on one day reported that documents prove how intertwined the Trump Tower Moscow project and the Trump campaign were despite the candidate's repeated claims that he had no Russian business interests, and then on another that Rinat Akhmetshin, one of the Russians accompanying the by-now notorious Natalia Veselnitskaya to the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, received suspicious payments totaling a half million dollars before and after the meeting.
As to those three questions:Is Mueller nearing the end of his Russia investigation?
Giving a less than convincing answer, Whitaker has said "I have been fully briefed on the investigation and I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report. I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed. Right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed."
That is the testimonial of a man being paid to say what Trump wants to hear, while it is probable that Mueller continues to pursue evidence that some or perhaps many of the 17 or so Trump campaign officials and advisers who had more than 100 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks were co-conspiritors in the Kremlin's successful effort to cybersabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
It can be argued endlessly whether Mueller is indeed wrapping up, whether we're at the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, or does "soon" mean next week or next June? One thing is for sure: Trump's legal problems will long outlast Mueller's investigation.
Why is the special counsel handing off so much to other prosecutors?
Mueller is farming out investigations to SDNY and other prosecutors because he's got plenty on his plate (seven of the now 18 investigations, by my count) and spreading the wealth around, so to speak, increases the number of prosecutors Trump AG nominee William Barr would have to go after when he's confirmed, some of them working in Main Justice at his future Washington headquarters and some in field offices like SDNY.
Will the new House Russia investigation have an impact?
No and yes. No because the inquiry is unlikely to unearth anything significant that we don't already know, but an emphatic yes because unlike Mueller and those other prosecutors, Schiff's committee will do much of its work in public, including televised hearings that will be a constant reminder of the enormity of the Russia scandal and Trump's deep involvement in it.
Lest we need a reminder, all this activity reveals a man, a campaign and a presidency so abjectly dishonest and corrupt that there simply are no comparisons. The Teapot Dome, Watergate and Iran-Contrs pale in comparison, while the scope of the Russia scandal is so enormous that there is only one comparable in American history -- the Soviet theft of atomic bomb secrets in the late 1940s.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.