Thinking Out Loud About the Mueller Investigation

Three pieces of news first:

1. Yesterday, Special Counsel Bob Mueller told a judge that he's not ready to sentence former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates because Gates is still cooperating with "several ongoing investigations," and instead requested an update in two months.

2. Also yesterday, it was reported that Mueller has subpoenaed more associates of Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi.

3. Finally yesterday, ten Republican Senators broke with their party to align with Democrats on a procedural vote regarding legislation to protect sanctions against Putin-allied Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Now, a few thoughts on each, in order:

1. Two months means that the breathless reports Mueller is on the verge of completing his investigation were, once again, premature.

2. There are a few people whose obvious criminality make them a sort of litmus test for me on how serious and effective Mueller's investigation is. I've previously expressed my consternation that Jared Kushner, for example, who repeatedly broke federal disclosure laws, still retains his highly influential position in the administration. Dirtbags Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi still facing no meaningful consequences is also troubling.

3. It's perplexing why a handful of Republican Senators suddenly decided to break ranks over Russia out of nowhere. It's not like they haven't known that Deripaska is a bad dude — and obviously Putin is way worse, and yet they've been protecting Trump on Russian collusion for two years.

Of course it's possible that ten Republican Senators spontaneously became courageous patriots overnight, but I don't find that to be likely.

Especially given the timing.

All at once, we have "breaking" news about Trump's fealty to the Kremlin which isn't actually breaking news at all; Mueller petitioning to extend his Russia investigation yet again; and Republicans suddenly deciding that the president being in cahoots with Russia is a bad thing. And we're days away from the point at which Mike Pence could assume the presidency and still be eligible to run for two more full terms.

I have long feared (and repeatedly expressed) that Mueller's investigation is effectively, if not intentionally, creating loads of time and space for Republicans to so thoroughly consolidate power that they won't have to care about his conclusions, even if those conclusions eventually recommend serious, meaningful consequences for Donald Trump and/or his various co-conspirators in 2016 election meddling and ongoing collusion with Russia.

(And indeed, during his confirmation hearing yesterday, Bill Barr testified that, if confirmed, he would not make Mueller's report public, but would write up his own report on the special counsel investigation.)

I have also long suspected that Pence is cooperating with Mueller, and that he recognizes assuming the presidency via succession is his best bet to achieve his lifelong ambition to be president.

I have additionally believed for some time that the Republicans were preparing to throw Trump under the bus as soon as we reached this point in his presidency, at which time Pence could be elevated. And, to my eyes, it looks like the pieces of that plan are falling into place.

Including, of course, Mueller's old friend Barr going through the confirmation process right now, too.

As I said on Monday: My sense is that they're using Trump to demolish Democratic norms (and stack the judiciary), then Pence will be able to exploit the "new normal" without any of the blame. Trump will be the Republicans' scapegoat forever, as they pretend to be restoring democracy while killing it.

I used to believe that Mueller's investigation was inadvertently giving Republicans' time to consolidate power and get their succession plan in order. Now I am inclined to believe that it was designed that way.

I was thinking about the special counsel investigation last night, again questioning my own instinct that it's not on the up-and-up, and instead I came up with a stronger feeling that the fix has been in from the very beginning.

Think about this: It was always kind of shocking that Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. An ethical move from someone who is hardly known for his ethics, or his professionalism. Why did he do that? That question has always bugged me. It was so out of character.

Then it hit me: Sessions must have had assurances, maybe from Mueller himself, about how this was going to go.

Even now, we've not heard a fucking peep about Sessions being investigated (just like Pence), even though Sessions was obliged to recuse himself for reasons that warrant investigation.

And the fact that Sessions did recuse himself, and a non-Trump appointee, Rod Rosenstein, then came to oversee the investigation, helped give it the illusion of credibility.

Then there's this: If someone didn't whisper something in Sessions' ear, he had no motivation to recuse himself. He viewed his role as Attorney General as protecting Trump. He petitioned for the position specifically so he could play that role. It doesn't make sense that he would then just abruptly offer to recuse himself.

Further, Sessions then spent the next year and a half being publicly (and presumably privately) berated by Trump over the recusal, by which Trump was utterly confused. Sessions never cleared up that confusion by satisfactorily explaining to Trump why he recused himself (because "ethics" was never going to make sense to the boss who'd hired him based on his promises to essentially eschew ethics). The most likely reason Sessions wouldn't have told Trump his reason is because it would have clued Trump in to a plan, by his own party, to remove him.

It's also telling that Sessions is laying low now. Dude has disappeared. He isn't on CNN; he isn't even on Fox News. He's just gone. He doesn't want anyone asking him questions about anything.

Anyway. This is where my head is at the moment, as I try to figure out what's happening and what's likely to happen next. As always, I hope I'm wrong. Although, at this point, I can't be wrong about all of it, because some of it has already happened: The Republicans have indeed consolidated power and stacked the judiciary in the time that Mueller has been investigating.

My major lingering question at the moment is this: Why have Mike Pence, who was hand-picked by Paul Manafort and oversaw the presidential transition during which many of these Russian contacts took place, and Jeff Sessions, who was obliged to recuse himself for Russian contacts he failed to disclose, not been reported as targets of the investigation? They are central figures. We need to know what their participation is, or isn't.

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