Dispatch February 26, 2019

Why the Attempts to Obstruct Mueller Matter

Opponents of the Mueller investigation have spent the past two years doing everything in their power to prevent Americans from learning the truth about whether the president of the United States is compromised. President Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices in Congress have tried to stymie Special Counsel Robert Mueller at every step and from every angle. Despite it all, he’s still turned up damning evidence of collusion.

One area where Mueller may have been blocked? Following Trump’s finances.

  • A “government source” speculated to David Ignatius that “Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, blocked any attempt to compel disclosure of the bank’s Trump file records to avoid getting himself or Mueller fired”—which, if true, would mean Mueller has been effectively prevented from fully investigating Trump’s finances.
  • After December 2017 reports that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank proved unfounded, there has been no follow-up to suggest that Mueller has received the bank’s records on Trump’s business there.
  • As the only major financial institution to lend to Trump after his rocky 1990s, Deutsche Bank is key to Trump’s finances. And given the bank’s history with Russian money launderers, it may be central to his Kremlin connections as well.

This may leave key avenues unexplored due to political pressure, as finances are the key to any counterintelligence investigation.

  • In even the most basic guidelines for a background check or security clearance, finances are one of the main concerns about foreign influence.
  • That’s especially true for Trump, whose long track record of allegedly corrupt dealings with Kremlin-linked oligarchs forms the backbone of his history with Russia—and leaves him vulnerable to the kind of kompromat that might lead to a person becoming an asset for a hostile foreign power.
  • Trump himself seems to recognize how important following the money is: He’s declared any investigation into his finances to be crossing a “red line,” and both of his reported attempts to fire Mueller came after news of the special counsel looking into money issues.

Blocking Mueller from scrutinizing Trump’s finances could stop him from completing a full counterintelligence investigation.

  • Mueller’s investigation isn’t just about Trump’s campaign; it’s also a continuation of the FBI’s effort to determine whether Trump is an asset of a hostile foreign power.
  • There is significant evidence that the president himself is compromised, as well as the staggering array of pro-Putin behavior that led the FBI to open its counterintelligence investigation in the first place.
  • Trump ran the Trump campaign, which means that any look at its actions must also take into account his motivations—most notably, the financial considerations of a candidate who we already know was actively looking to monetize his own candidacy.

Fortunately, there’s a body that not only can fill in any gaps but is constitutionally mandated to do so: Congress.

  • Mueller’s results so far—seven guilty pleas, 37 indictments, more than 1,000 pages of evidence—speak for themselves as to the importance of continuing the Russia investigation.
  • Along with clear evidence of collusion, Mueller’s team has unearthed a plethora of leads for Congress to follow as it begins to exercise its oversight duties.
  • For the first two years of the investigation, the intelligence committees were beholden to the whims of Trump transition-team member Devin Nunes and Trump campaign adviser Richard Burr. Now that a new House is ready to actually conduct oversight, they should hold public hearings (without skipping important witnesses and questions) to expose the truth about the president’s corrupt dealings with a hostile foreign power.

Despite everything the Trump administration and its accomplices in Congress have thrown in his way, Mueller has demonstrated collusion. Regardless of when or how his investigation winds down, Congress has plenty to go on to begin the next phase.