President Donald Trump looks — and is acting — rattled and encircled by the Russia investigation. And a series of fresh disclosures on Tuesday show there is every reason for him to feel threatened by the vast shadow it is casting over his life, business and presidency.Newly unsealed court documents detailing special counsel Robert Mueller’s activity reveal an investigative field of breathtaking scope and a prosecutorial machine that ratcheted quickly up in mid-2017.The search warrants targeting Trump’s ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen offer a glimpse of the covert world of the probe. As is often the case with Mueller, they give only a tantalizing hint of the wider, yet still hidden, puzzle.
In court filing, Robert Mueller’s team says it’s very busy this weekBut such disclosures are almost never good news for Trump.There is enough to explain from Tuesday’s reveal why the investigation must be weighing on Trump’s spirits, and driving his angry Twitter outbursts.The vast breadth of the investigation by various jurisdictions also could offer a rich seam for Democratic House chairmen should they eventually subpoena primary evidence uncovered by Mueller and other prosecutors.And the release underlines that various investigations that are penetrating deep into Trump’s business, personal and political life are likely to be haunting the President for years to come — even after Mueller has left the stage.
Campaign finance case still alive
READ: Newly released Michael Cohen court
Michael Cohen warrants show how the FBI can unlock your phone and track your movementsTuesday’s documents also contain more evidence that Trump associates, in this case Cohen, appeared to have at least indirect connections to powerful Russians.They show that Cohen was paid more than $500,000 through his company as a business consultant from January to August 2017 by Columbus Nova LLC., an investment management firm that is linked to Russian national Viktor Vekselberg.Vekselberg is an oligarch — with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — who is under US sanctions regarding election interference.Columbus Nova said in a statement that neither Vekselberg nor anyone outside the firm had been involved in the decision to hire Cohen or to provide funding for his work.Cohen, who will go to jail in May after he admitted lying to Congress and for tax and fraud offenses, was not charged with unlawfully acting as an unregistered foreign lobbyist. But he is far from the only Trump associate to have suggestions of links that can be traced back to prominent Russians. Many of those Trump allies have been caught by Mueller trying to hide such relationships.The question of whether foreign influence and quid pro quos were in play during the Trump campaign for the presidency, and early in his administration, gets to the heart of what Mueller is charged with investigating.
Feeding the ‘witch hunt’ narrative
Play VideoDocs show Mueller investigated Cohen long before raid 02:07Methods used by investigators to track Cohen, including state-of-the-art techniques targeting Apple devices, and the revelation of their sweep through the lawyer’s emails and telephone communications may fuel Trump’s fury about what he sees as the special counsel’s “witch hunt.”They also suggest that Mueller and his counterparts in New York may know a lot about the communications of people around Trump during parts of the 2016 campaign and early in the presidency.The documents show that Mueller had shown probable cause that Cohen had committed a crime to obtain warrants for two email accounts as far back as the summer of 2017, nine months before FBI agents acting on behalf of New York prosecutors raided Cohen’s office and residences.Trump’s siege mentality is unlikely to be helped by the simultaneous publication Tuesday of a double page spread in his hometown newspaper, The New York Times, revealing his complicated financial relationship with Deutsche Bank.Although the article did not show any illegality, it is the kind of unflattering deep dive critique of his personal and business practices that Trump abhors.Given the avalanche of revelations, it’s not surprising that the President is sometimes prone to isolated outbursts of fury directed at Mueller.”THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted out of the blue on Saturday.Tuesday’s revelations also provided the context against which the President stood in the White House Rose Garden and claimed the real “collusion” in US politics was between social media companies opposed to conservatives.Trump praised Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — a leader with autocratic tendencies in his own image — of buying into his “fake news” narrative.”It seems to be if they’re conservative, if they’re Republicans, if they’re in a certain group, there’s discrimination, and big discrimination,” Trump added.Claims that the President is being muffled on social media hardly seem credible given that he has 59 million Twitter followers and can set the political agenda by banging out a few characters.It’s also notable that Mueller has indicted three Russian entities and 13 Russian nationals in connection with Moscow’s operation to use social media to interfere in the 2016 election, sow political discord and elect Trump.
New intrigue over Rosenstein
Rosenstein staying on at Justice Department ‘a little longer’ than anticipatedWashington has been on edge for several weeks over expectations that Mueller is getting toward the end of the road.But there was a new wrinkle on Tuesday with the news that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen much of the Mueller probe, is not yet ready to leave his job.Rosenstein had been expected to leave in mid-March, now that a new attorney general, William Barr, who is not recused from the Russia probe like his predecessor Jeff Sessions, has taken office.Rosenstein will now stay “a little longer” than originally anticipated.A source familiar with the matter told CNN’s Pamela Brown that Rosenstein is waiting for Mueller to deliver his report to Barr.Rosenstein sees himself as the “heat shield” since he appointed Mueller, and could be in position to take the “hit” if controversy explodes when the report drops, the source said.
Slow-rolling Trump’s defense
White House misses Democrats’ deadline to turn over docsWhile Trump may feel increasingly isolated, there are new indications that Democrats who have launched their own vast investigation against Trump world will encounter significant difficulties.The White House has missed a House Judiciary Committee deadline to turn over scores of records related to an investigation over whether Trump abused power.Some former officials who received letters from the committee requesting documents, including former White House counsel Don McGahn and former deputy counsel Annie Donaldson, are referring them to the White House.Republican aides said the committee had gotten responses from only eight of the 81 officials who had received letters from the committee earlier this month, and a ninth had mailed documents, though they had yet to be received.Democrats painted a more positive picture, but the speed bumps were a sign of the tortuous road of subpoenas and legal challenges ahead as House Democrats face White House resistance.People outside the government, however, are more exposed to subpoenas than others in the administration, as they cannot wage long fights citing executive privilege concerns as an excuse not to hand over documents.