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Donald Trump and lawyers blast Robert Mueller at Russia investigation one-year anniversary  4 Days ago

Source:   USA Today  

WASHINGTON — Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller marks one year on the job Thursday, but no one at the White House is celebrating — especially President Trump.

"Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History ... and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction," the president tweeted early in the day.

Echoing the claim that the probe is interfering with his presidential duties, Trump later tweeted: "Despite the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt, we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history - by far! Sorry to the Fake News Media and 'Haters,' but that’s the way it is!"

The tweets were another part of an ongoing effort to pressure Mueller's office into ending its super-secret investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 election, at least as it pertains to the president.

Indications are, however, that Trump and his supporters face a second year of uncertainty as they and their critics try to figure out what Mueller plans to do.

While Trump has repeatedly denounced the investigation as a "witch hunt;" his critics say Mueller and his prosecutors are building a major case against the president and his aides — but the fact is no one beyond Mueller's office knows for sure.

The Mueller team has leaked few if any details of the investigation, leaving observers to guess at what is happening, based on leaks from defense attorneys, grand jury witnesses, and the charges that have already been filed.

Reports that Trump's personal finances are under scrutiny or that the FBI had a "mole" inside the GOP campaign — a theory that Trump himself tweeted about after attacking the investigation Thursday — are unverified. 

Trump used the mole report to claim that the Obama administration somehow spied on his campaign, but there is no evidence for that. Mueller's source, if he or she exists, could just as as easily be a voluntary informant, and the Special Counsel's office has not commented one way or another.

"Bob Mueller runs a very tight ship and that ship does not leak," said David Kris, an attorney and founder of Culper Partners consulting firm.

A former Department of Justice lawyer who has worked with Mueller in the past, Kris said "he is the very opposite of a media hound."

The president's critics said he is trying to use the bully pulpit to intimidate Mueller, but they doubt he will be successful.

Citing the 19 indictments or guilty pleas that Mueller's team has racked up, Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said he's sure Trump "wishes it would be over, but his attempts to cover it up force most people to wonder what he's hiding."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate's top Democrat, marked the anniversary with a floor speech saying that Trump and allies are spinning "conspiracy theories" about the special counsel for one reason: "They’re afraid of what Mueller’s investigation will reveal."

Trump associates, meanwhile, believe the public is turning against Mueller, questioning the length of the investigation and some of the tactics used by investigators and prosecutors.

Sam Nunberg, a former long-time political adviser to Trump who testified before a grand jury in the Russia case, said "I believe the Mueller investigation is in a precarious situation right now, from a political point of view."

Others point out that Mueller can't wrap up any time soon because he is missing key material: testimony from the president himself.

The two sides are negotiating rules for possible Trump testimony, amid concerns from the president's team that prosecutors may try to lay a "perjury trap." 

Giuliani said last week he hoped to have some kind of agreement in place by Mueller's one-year anniversary, but it looks like that may not happen.

The president's lawyer also said he expects Mueller to file a report with the Justice Department on his findings. Giuliani has said that Mueller's office agrees with his assessment that a sitting president cannot be indicted if there is evidence of wrongdoing, which the president denies.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller a year ago to investigate any connections between Trump's campaign and Russians who sought to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democrats and pushing fake news about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Mueller picked up an investigation begun by the FBI in late July of 2016.

The Mueller probe has come to include claims that Trump sought to obstruct justice by various means, including his dismissal of then-FBI Director James Comey. That also happened a year ago, a week before the Mueller appointment.

While denying collusion with the Russians and obstructing justice, Trump has frequently attacked Rosenstein and Mueller. Lawmakers have accused Trump of laying the groundwork for firing Mueller, though some Republicans have warned the president that such a move could trigger impeachment proceedings.

In the meantime, Mueller's team is also pursuing cases.

His office has indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 19 people, including 13 Russians and three Russian companies accused of funding a social media campaign designed to favor Trump over Clinton. Mueller has also charged prominent people in Trump's orbit, some of whom are cooperating with prosecutors — a "pretty substantial amount" of work for a year on the job, Kris said.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is charged with conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets related to his pre-election work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty.

Long-time Manafort partner Rick Gates faced similar charges, but pleaded guilty to false statement and conspiracy charges. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller's Russia investigation.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements, as has campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. They too are working with Mueller's office.

While some attorneys said the Trump team's attacks on Mueller could backfire, Giuliani said he and the president have no choice but to fight back.






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