The New York Times and the Washington Post both published stories Thursday evening detailing efforts by President Donald Trump’s legal team to cripple and de-fang Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and possible collusion with that country in meddling with the 2016 election.
The Times piece, written by Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Matt Apuzzo, detailed efforts by the White House legal team and Trump’s personal lawyers to dig up potential conflicts of interest to use as disqualifying factors and impugn Mueller’s objectivity in the case.
In the Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger said that not only are Trump’s attorneys looking for ways to undermine Mueller’s authority, but are also exploring the legal minutiae of presidential pardons.
The Trump administration is setting itself on course for a showdown with Mueller rather than quietly submitting to the investigation. Trump and his attorneys would clearly rather attack and sabotage the workings of the investigation rather than hope his arguments will survive on their merits.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told the Post that Mueller should immediately stop looking into Trump’s past financial dealings with Russian oligarchs and figures with elaborate connections to organized crime.
Sekulow insisted that those dealings are separate from the inquiry into collusion with Russia and that Mueller is overstepping his bounds.
“The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel’s office and any changes in the scope of the investigation,” Sekulow told the Post. “The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate. If there’s drifting, we’re going to object.”
However, given what we know about investigations into former Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort’s connections to Russian money laundering and clues from intelligence services that Russia was pumping money into the 2016 election through elaborate shell companies and other entities, it is entirely possible that it is within Mueller’s purview to examine those records.
Trump’s last western creditor, Deutsche Bank agreed Thursday to hand over its financial records of Mr. Trump’s dealings with the bank, something it has previously declined to do citing privacy laws.
The Times said that the White House legal team is reshuffling. Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz is being relegated to a lesser role, perhaps stemming from his recent emotional outburst at an emailer.
Veteran Washington attorney John Dowd will now be leading the defense team, assisted by Sekulow and spokesman Mark Corallo resigned on Thursday, according to the Post.