‘Preparing for the worst’: Mueller anxiety pervades Trump world

Source: Politico | November 15, 2018 | Darren Samuelsohn

Half a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. insist they aren’t worried about special counsel Robert Mueller.

But half a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump’s allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment.

Then there are the president’s own tweets, which have turned back to attacking Mueller after a near two-month break. Thursday morning, Trump launched an oddly detailed condemnation of the special counsel and his team: “They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,” adding that the investigators “don’t … care how many lives the[sic] ruin.”

The presidential taunts, launched during a week in which Trump has been sequestered with his lawyers to discuss how to respond in writing to a series of Mueller’s questions, have only added to the intrigue that something big is about to happen.

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“You can see it in Trump’s body language all week long. There’s something troubling him. It’s not just a couple staff screw-ups with Melania,” said a senior Republican official in touch with the White House. “It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they’ve been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst.”

Adding to the unease is a spate of anonymously sourced media reports suggesting Mueller’s self-imposed quiet period that started about two months before 2018 Election Day is about to transition into a Category 5 hurricane.

Mueller, as has been his custom throughout the investigation, hasn’t said a word about what’s next for his probe into the Trump 2016 campaign and whether it conspired with Russian hackers to win the White House. Instead, the special counsel has let his legal filings do the talking. On Wednesday, Mueller stirred the speculation pot yet again, delivering a one-page motion to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., confirming that former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations” and still isn’t ready to be sentenced. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy against the U.S. and making a false statement in a federal investigation.

Late Thursday, Mueller and attorneys for Paul Manafort confirmed in a joint motion that they’ve been meeting since the former Trump campaign chairman’s mid-September guilty plea and requested a 10-day extension until Nov. 26 to file a status report that will help set the stage for the longtime GOP operative’s sentencing.

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While Schindler buried that detail in the final paragraph of his op-ed, it nonetheless got noticed. The Daily Mail published a story the next day that led with the column’s most jarring detail. In Washington, Brett Kappel, a Democratic campaign finance lawyer, used the Observer column as inspiration to spend the weekend sorting through the federal court’s online criminal docket to make a list of all the sealed cases in the District of Columbia circuit that could be Mueller related.

He counted 336 criminal cases filed since the start of this year — 53 of them are still sealed.

While there’s no guarantee that any of the mystery cases are Mueller-related, several are chronologically listed right around some of Mueller’s earliest moves in 2018, including charges filed against a California man who later pleaded guilty to unwittingly helping the Russians interfere with the presidential election, a Dutch attorney who has since gone to prison for lying to Mueller’s investigators and the case against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of sabotaging the 2016 campaign on Trump’s behalf.

Kappel also found 11 cases sealed during just the first two weeks of May and another dozen that were lodged between Labor Day and Election Day when Mueller was staying under the radar.

In an interview, Kappel acknowledged that many of the cases he found could have nothing to do with Mueller. But he added that the D.C. docket has what “seems like a disproportionately high number” of criminal indictments that could be kept under wraps because Mueller doesn’t want to tip off potential targets or disrupt the rest of his investigation.

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