Mid Game

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

In Chess this is the most interesting part because you’ve run out of the cheats in your Big Book Of Openings (I favor English because it’s unusual, unexpected, and works on both sides of the board) and you’re left staring at…

Well, a mess. Your Rooks are Doubled (meaning there is a clear line of communication between them) and your Bishops fianchettoed (deployed on the longest diagonals for maximum power), your Queen liberated for defense, your King well protected and your Knights aggressively postured. Somehow you have to turn that into a Checkmate.

Normally you simplify, sacrificing your pieces to remove your opponent’s pieces that have high value or are strategically significant. With the board emptier of distraction you go for the kill.

According to Bloomberg News (which I shall shortly cite at length) Mueller is at that stage. They contend that this is the End Game while I feel like a kitten in a big box of yarn. I think the most likely development after the election is a pile of indictments directed at Trump’s Inner Circle including his family and perhaps several sealed ones for The Donald himself. It is another probability that he will issue a preliminary report to Rosenstein and that he in turn will dump it to Congress like a hot potato. This is an insurance policy, especially if we get the kind of “Blue Wave” result we are hoping for.

Does Trump fire Sessions? Yes, thanks for nothing you disposable peon. Does he fire Rosenstein? He doesn’t need to, the new AG will presumably be free of recusable conflicts of interest (aside being appointed by Trump of course) and can take over supervision of the Russian Treason Plot investigation where he can proceed to thwart Mueller in a thousand ways that are significant but never get a headline.

So do I think of November 6th as a deadline? Yes I do. Only it won’t quite be November 6th because friction.

The fact remains that Mueller, while he undoubtedly knows a lot more than you’re able to pick up in the Press, probably hasn’t explored the uttermost reaches of Trump corruption yet if only because the territory is so vast.

Still, expect heavy news cycles after November 7th.

Mueller Ready to Deliver Key Findings in His Trump Probe, Sources Say
By Chris Strohm, Greg Farrell, and Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg News
October 17, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials.

Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.

The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of the House and end Trump’s one-party hold on Washington.

But this timeline also raises questions about the future of the probe itself. Trump has signaled he may replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the election, a move that could bring in a new boss for Mueller. Rosenstein also might resign or be fired by Trump after the election.

There’s no indication, though, that Mueller is ready to close up shop, even if he does make some findings, according to former federal prosecutors. Several matters could keep the probe going, such as another significant prosecution or new lines of inquiry. And because Mueller’s investigation has been proceeding quietly, out of the public eye, it’s possible there have been other major developments behind the scenes.

Mueller only recently submitted written questions to Trump’s lawyers regarding potential collusion with Russia, and his team hasn’t yet ruled out seeking an interview with the president, according to one of the U.S. officials. If Trump refused an interview request, Mueller could face the complicated question of whether to seek a grand jury subpoena of the president. The Justice Department has a standing policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

After several postponements, Mueller’s team has agreed to a sentencing date for Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements last year. The Dec. 18 date comes more than a year after Mueller secured a cooperation deal with Flynn, suggesting that Mueller’s team has all it needs from him.

Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, struck his own cooperation agreement with Mueller last month, after being convicted at trial in Virginia on eight counts of bank fraud, filing false tax returns and failure to file a foreign bank account. The plea agreement let him avoid a second trial in Washington. The judge in the Virginia trial, who wasn’t part of the plea agreement, has scheduled a sentencing hearing Friday, which could complicate Manafort’s cooperation agreement with Mueller.

Mueller’s prosecutors also have met with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. Cohen pleaded guilty in New York in August to tax evasion, bank fraud and violations of campaign finance laws. That separate investigation, headed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, is one of several New York probes involving the Trump Organization, and could ultimately prove to be more damaging to the president than Mueller’s work.

Former federal prosecutors said in recent interviews that Manafort’s plea deal probably advanced Mueller’s timeline for determining whether there was collusion.

Manafort could be assisting Mueller’s team on questions related to whether the Trump campaign changed the Republican party’s stance on Ukraine as part of an understanding with the Russian government, and whether the Russians helped coordinate the release of hacked emails related to Democrat Hillary Clinton with members of Trump’s campaign, said another former prosecutor who asked not to be named.

Manafort is also key to understanding a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians who had promised damaging information concerning Clinton, the former official said.

Manafort appears to have good material to offer, said Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Duke University School of Law. “He’s not going to get that deal unless he can help Mueller make a case against one or more people,” Buell said. Cooperators can’t expect leniency unless they provide “substantial assistance in the prosecution of others,” Buell added, citing sentencing guidelines.