CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Wednesday hit back at the president and his backers for insisting that "collusion is not a crime" — and used the Justice Department's own edicts to prove them wrong.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in The New Yorker, Toobin cited a legal brief issued by special counsel Robert Mueller that proved Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man overseeing his investigation, authorized the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. As Toobin wrote, that brief could have ramifications that far surpass the man who formerly led the Trump campaign.
Submitted August 2nd, 2017 in response to claims by Manafort's lawyers that the former campaign chairman's work with politicians in the Ukraine was outside of his jurisdiction, the brief showed that Mueller had express authority to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russia and/or undertook criminal action when working for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The latter point, Toobin argued, was what allowed Mueller to indict Manafort on multiple counts related to his work for Yanukovych. But the former point — that he has authority to investigate whether the chairman "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law" — could have bearing on the investigation into whether President Donald Trump worked with Russians to win the American election in 2016.
Citing Mueller's February indictment of 13 Russians for "conspiracy to defraud the United States" in the 2016 election, Toobin wrote that the special counsel's indictment of the foreigners offer a glimpse of his interpretation of legal doctrine.
"This case, of course, only deals with Russian defendants," he wrote. "But if Mueller were able to prove that Americans worked with the Russians in this kind of endeavor—that is, if he can prove that Americans colluded with the Russians—then he could bring a similar charge against them."
On Tuesday, as Toobin pointed out, the Washington Post reported that Mueller informed Trump's lawyers that the president remains a subject of his investigation — and that he has not yet decided whether he's going to bring criminal charges against the commander-in-chief.
"Mueller now has the authority, and the legal theory, to bring criminal charges for collusion," Toobin concluded. "The unanswered question is whether he has American defendants, too."