DemDaily: Escalation

August 3, 2017

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Three major things happened yesterday, August 3, 2017 that mark a turning point in the Trump-Russia investigation:

* Grand Jury Convened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller - one of several, including a DC-based grand jury already impaneled and at work with issued subpoenas seeking documents and testimony in the case.

* Senate Left in Pro Forma Session 
The Republican Leadership left the US Senate in "pro forma session" or in official working status, for its August "recess." The procedural roadblock prevents the President from making any recess appointments while Congress is gone (like a new Special Counsel).

*  Bi-Partisan Legislation Introduced to Protect the Special Counsel
Two proposals, one from Senate Judiciary Committee members Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-Del), and one from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) were introduced to require judicial review of any attempt to fire the Special Counsel.

Subplots
Legal Team: Mueller has expanded the Special Counsel's legal team to 16 prominent attorneys with extensive knowledge of federal corruption, money laundering and federal fraud cases.

Picture: Washington Post

Prepare to Testify: Acting Director of FBI Andrew McCabe informed senior managers they may have to testify before the grand jury.  DOJ Employees have been told to preserve all related records.

White House Tapes:  Leaked tapes of embarrassing conversations in January between Trump and the President of Mexico and Trump and the Australian Prime Minister where an angry Trump rails about political optics. The leaks came from within Trump's own White House.

 

Response
Trump, in a campaign-style speech to a crowd in West Virginia yesterday, called the Russia investigation "a total fabrication... they are trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want."  The "they," however, are his own administration.

Mueller, who served as FBI Director from 2001 to 2013, was appointed as Special Counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein following Trump's firing of then-FBI Director James Comey - done by his own admission over "the Russia thing."

Unlike the public Congressional probes into the Russia-Trump collusion, the Special Counsel's investigation is conducted in strict confidentiality and, unlike the others, the DOJ's Special Counsel can bring criminal charges.

But it is once again the public statements and baiting by the President himself that have prompted expansion, and now escalation, in the investigation.

In a July 19th interiew with the New York Times, Trump threatened investigators would be crossing a "red line" if they chose to delve into his financial dealings - which are purported to be a focus of the widening investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Under the order establishing the Special Counsel, Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that "arose or may arise directly from the investigation."

What Next?
Is the first concrete step in the path to the end of a Presidency?

The key may not be in watching the Special Counsel but the Republicans in Congress - who appear to have begun their own efforts to save their seats in 2018.

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Sources: New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, Politico, LA Times

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