- There’s mounting speculation that the special counsel Robert Mueller will come out with something substantial in the Russia investigation as soon as Friday.
- John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s former defence attorney who’s in frequent touch with the president’s legal team, said Friday that Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are not authorised to release a report because the information in it would be protected by executive privilege.
- Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lead defence lawyer, has for some time called for Mueller to release a final report by September 1, and he said that speculation that Mueller could make a big release on Friday “makes sense.”
All eyes are on the special counsel Robert Mueller amid mounting speculation that he could come out with something substantial in the Russia investigation before Labour Day.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favour.
The MSNBC host Chuck Todd first raised the possibility of significant developments in the Russia investigation when he suggested during Thursday’s edition of “Meet the Press Daily” that there could be a major release from Mueller on Friday.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m not missing work tomorrow,” Todd said. “I wouldn’t miss work tomorrow.”
The anchor added that people who worked with Mueller on the investigation would have ended it if they had not found evidence of collusion, adding that he also believes Mueller is likely to lie low between Labour Day and the November midterm elections to avoid accusations of political interference.
On Friday morning, the news website Axios reported that speculation of a Friday revelation was “hot among the president’s legal team.” The publication listed possible evidence Mueller could have at his disposal – such as Trump’s tax returns, bank records, and Trump Organisation records – that the public might not be aware of yet.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal defence attorney, told Business Insider on Friday that he had no inside information about whether Mueller would make a big release on Friday. But he said speculation that the special counsel might do so “makes sense.”
Giuliani has for some time called on Mueller to issue his final report by September 1 so that it is not released too close to the midterm elections.
Mueller has given no indication that he will release a final report anytime soon. But his team is said to have told Trump’s lawyers earlier this year that it expected to wrap up by the end of the summer a report on the portion of the investigation involving whether Trump obstructed justice.
John Dowd, who led Trump’s defence team until Giuliani took the helm earlier this year, said of the investigation: “The sooner it’s over the better.”
Dowd is in frequent contact with Giuliani and other members of Trump’s legal team. Asked about a decision by the special counsel to compile a report on his findings in the obstruction case, Dowd said Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein do not have the authority to release such a report in the first place.
“Who says he’s going to release a report?” Dowd said. “Mueller can’t release a report because any information he gathered for it is protected by executive privilege. He needs permission from the White House to release it.”
Mueller most likely decided to write a report on his findings because Department of Justice policy says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Once a report is complete, Mueller would submit it to Rosenstein, who would have final say over whether to make the information in it public and whether to refer it to Congress to consider impeachment.
Dowd said Friday that Rosenstein was not authorised to release that report either because he also functions within the executive branch.
A ‘very weak argument’
Legal experts told Business Insider that such a claim of executive privilege would be unlikely to hold up in court for several reasons. Among other things, they pointed out that Trump has publicly commented – in interviews and tweets – on several events central to Mueller’s obstruction case.
“You can’t claim executive privilege over something when the president already tweeted it out to his 50 million Twitter followers,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the DOJ.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said that while the White House could theoretically claim that certain information in a report is protected by executive privilege, a court would most likely strike that argument down.
“What the White House would essentially be saying then is that a prosecutor can obtain information from the president or the White House but they can’t do anything with it,” Mariotti said. “That’s a very weak argument.”
Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Thursday that Trump’s legal team was preparing a “counter-report” that would seek to delegitimize Mueller and the Russia investigation.
Giuliani added that the report would contain two sections: The first would question the legitimacy of the Russia investigation by highlighting the purported conflicts of interests Trump’s lawyers claim that federal investigators face, and the second would address the specific claims of collusion and obstruction of justice.
In the aftermath of the convictions last week of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime lawyer, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, Democratic aides told Business Insider they were awaiting Mueller’s report before making any further determinations about their strategy regarding the president and possibly impeachment.
One Democratic Senate aide, who requested anonymity to provide Democratic thought on the matter without speaking directly for their boss, said Cohen’s plea deal and Manafort’s guilty verdict didn’t change any calculations for the time being but did set the stage for possible actions after Mueller’s report is released.
“The smart thing to do is to let the investigation play out – and do everything we can to protect its independence – and then make a determination based on Mueller’s report and any charges they recommend,” they said.
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