Tuesday, December 18, 2018

17 investigations related to Trump

That’s an amazing number. One might even call it, to use a hackneyed term, unprecedented.

538’s morning email, significant digits, alerts us to the 17 (known) investigations reported by Wired.com.

It’s hard to keep track of them all, but Wired has put together a guide: There are 17 known investigations related to President Trump. That includes seven by the special counsel Robert Mueller, four by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, two by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and three by New York City, New York State or other state attorneys general. [Wired]

Here is an email synopsis by the author, Garrett M. Graff (Contributing Editor, WIRED).

The president spent Sunday morning angrily tweeting about the Mueller investigation, calling his decade-long lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen a “Rat” for cooperating with the FBI. Given the developments of last week, it’s easy to see why he’s nervous. According to a comprehensive count by WIRED, President Trump and his associates are now wrapped up in no fewer than 17 distinct criminal investigations and court cases examining not just Russia’s role in the 2016 election, but a much wider array of probes.

As we wrote in today’s piece, “While President Trump once said that he’d see investigations into his business dealings as crossing a ‘red line,’ it appears that Trump himself obliterated that line, intermingling his business and campaign until it was impossible for prosecutors to untangle one without forensically examining the other.” Of particular concern for Trump: Almost every probe in the vast constellation has at least one known cooperating witness. There’s an old prosecutors’ maxim that says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the table.” Increasingly, Donald Trump and his family are the only ones not at the table cooperating.

The pace of recent developments—which have come in a veritable flood since Thanksgiving—shows no sign of abating. Last Thursday, suspected Russian spy and gun-rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent ahead of the 2016 election. And prosecutors in Virginia unsealed charges Monday morning against two of former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn’s business partners, part of an investigation into alleged illegal work benefiting the Turkish government.

Monday also saw the release of a comprehensive report on Russian disinformation efforts prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. While the investigation by their counterparts in the House, led by representative Devin Nunes, descended into acrimony and farce, the Senate has actually continued doing thoughtful, bipartisan work. This latest report offers revealing details about how thoroughly Russian trolls permeated Instagram, and how aggressively they targeted the black community. As Nicholas Thompson and Issie Lapowsky wrote, “Between the Twitter handles, the Facebook pages, the Instagram posts, the YouTube personalities, the fake local news sites, and in at least one case, a phony geopolitical think tank, the trolls created their own mini-internet to prop up Trump and spread distrust in his opponent and the election system itself.”

More Mueller news is just ahead. Tuesday will see the sentencing of Flynn himself. The special counsel suggested no prison time, given Flynn’s extensive cooperation. Given the weight and seriousness of the new allegations laid out against his business partners, though, it’s worth nothing that Flynn must have provided truly valuable information to prosecutors in order to escape any prosecution for his role in the apparent Turkish scheme at all. Prosecutors rarely give cooperators credit for “cooperating down,” that is, informing on equal or lesser participants in an investigation. Flynn’s cooperation, then, likely focused on the very small universe of people “above” him. In the hierarchy of the Trump campaign and White House, there aren’t that many people above the national security advisor—and effectively all of them have the last name Trump, or are married to someone with the last name Trump. That nagging, uncomfortable fact will likely keep the president’s tweets fired up.

There. You’ve done your homework for the week ahead. It starts today with Flynn’s sentencing. For more in depth see A Complete Guide to All 17 (Known) Trump and Russia Investigations at wired.com. Be warned; it is long.

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