In the never-ending tradition of a Friday evening news drop, CNN broke the news last night that the first charges had been filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
— CNN (@CNN) October 28, 2017
Here is what we know so far.
- The indictments were returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. This means that whoever has been indicted faces federal, not state, charges.
- No arrests are expected to happen until at least Monday.
Here is what we do not know:
- The exact nature of the charges.
- The number of people who have been indicted.
- The name or names of the persons indicted.
- If the resignation of U.S. Attorney for Eastern Virginia Dana Buente on Thursday was related to the indictments, and what, if any, significance results from his resignation.
There are several options the Trump administration could follow, none of them good for Trump.
As these are federal charges, Donald Trump could, in theory, preemptively pardon anyone indicted with one notable exception. If the person or persons indicted could be impeached (Pence, any current Cabinet members, or any person whose job required Senate confirmation) he does not have the power to pardon these people. This exception is explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution. However, should Trump issue a pardon for someone such as Manafort or General Flynn, the outcry from the country and one would hope from Congress as well, could lead to his own impeachment.
Trump could have Mueller fired. Again, if Congress allowed him to do this, especially as indictments have now been issued, the blowback from any such attempt would damage the Trump presidency even further. It is highly unlikely that even the spineless leaders of the Republicans in Congress would allow Trump to get away with any such action.
Trump and his sycophants in Fox News can continue to try to spin the story into one about Hillary Clinton, uranium, and even their latest ludicrous claim that Clinton is responsible for the Steele dossier. This past week we have seen people like Sean Hannity try to make the story all about Clinton in an attempt to muddy the waters. But no matter how hard they try, they cannot make the indictments go away.
Many people have put their faith in the Mueller investigation to bring down Donald Trump and his presidency. At this point, we simply do not have enough information to know how much damage these sealed indictments will inflict on either Trump or his administration. So don’t break out your beer bottles yet.
But this is most likely only the first in a series of indictments that could result from the Mueller investigation. Don’t forget that the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also conducting a concurrent investigation with Mueller, with both teams sharing information. As the Schneiderman investigation is a state one, Trump can neither pardon the offenders or fire the Attorney General.
To quote Winston Churchill:
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”