It ignores the infamous Trump Tower meeting between a Russian woman who was offering compromising information on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Mueller, by the way, is still very actively conducting his probe. More direct allegations of collusion with Russia could be on their way.
The law allows special counsels to uncover crimes as well as investigate them
But Trump’s larger point is that Mueller’s probe has evolved from its original purpose.
“If in the course of his or her investigation the Special Counsel concludes that additional jurisdiction beyond that specified in his or her original jurisdiction is necessary in order to fully investigate and resolve the matters assigned, or to investigate new matters that come to light in the course of his or her investigation, he or she shall consult with the Attorney General, who will determine whether to include the additional matters within the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction or assign them elsewhere.”
This is a good place to point out that Cohen’s guilty plea was engineered by the US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and not by Mueller’s special counsel’s office.
Mueller referred the case to the Southern District months ago, before a raid on Cohen’s apartment.
Cohen’s and Manafort’s crimes are serious
But the biggest problem with Trump’s “no collusion” defense is that he’s trying to minimize the guilt of his former associates. It’s not related to Russia, so it shouldn’t have been prosecuted, essentially. But they were crimes, at least in the minds of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia, jurors, who agreed on eight of 18 counts and could send the former Trump campaign chief away for the rest of his life. Along with guilty pleadings from former Trump campaign staffers George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who are all cooperating with Mueller, the universe of Trump associates with the word “guilty” next to their names continues to grow.
That’s a problem for those staffers and a serious problem for Trump, whose promise to hire only the best people seems questionable at best.
The hard reality of all those proven or admitted crimes, however, makes it very difficult for Trump to do anything but attack the credibility of the system. At some point he can no longer try to marginalize all the now-convicted criminals who worked for him. There are too many.
That’s why he’ll continue to claim it’s all a big witch hunt, even though that claim is getting very hard to defend. He was praising Manafort on Tuesday, for instance, as a strong and honorable man who didn’t “break” like Cohen.
“Brave man” is a very interesting way to spin convicted tax fraud.
In the case of Cohen, the White House and Trump have argued the campaign finance charges he copped to shouldn’t even be crimes.