The recent indictment by US special counsel Robert Mueller is just the tip of the iceberg in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, according to experts.
In the biggest breakthrough in Robert Mueller’s investigation so far, the special counsel last week released a 37-page document indicting 13 Russians for alleged links to three Russian entities accused of waging a sweeping campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour.
Adam Ramey, assistant professor of political science at New York University, said that the litany of indictments is “just the beginning” of an avalanche of evidence of Russian interference in the election.
Ramey told Verdict:
If those are the official cases that he has, there’s no telling what else he has under the radar. Particularly, we know that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had contacts with the Russians before the election, if Trump does not pardon him who knows what the plea agreement is with Mueller. He could spill the beans on quite a lot of things the administration are worried about.
In any investigation, indictments will only be delivered once the prosecuting attorney actually has enough evidence to prove a case in a court of law.
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By Mueller delivering these indictments that’s a signal that he’s got enough evidence to almost certainly put these guys away for violating federal laws.
With a chorus of conservative legal voices pushing president Trump to preemptively grant pardons to anyone who may or may not have been involved in this probe, the question now is what Trump will do next.
Although Trump may be tempted to fire Mueller, Ramey speculates that the sheer number of indictments has made that politically impossible, despite efforts by Trump to fire the special counsel back in June 2017.
If Trump were to fire Mueller at this point, it would be a de facto admission of guilt for him and or close members of his administration.
Presidential pardons a possibility
Trump’s supporters have called for the president to exercise his executive powers to preemptively pardon former aides, including his former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy Frederick Fleitz told Politico that Trump should be “pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately”.
Another conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, in comments before Mueller’s indictment was released, said:
I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.
Such a move would be wildly controversial and could sound the death knell for the Republicans in the upcoming congressional elections, Ramey warned.
According to Ramey:
He could do it, but he would be expending a lot of his s political capital and would be a big tarnish on his administration, and with the Congressional elections coming up this November, it would be a potential death sentence for the republican party in congress. Trump is in a very tough position right now.
A failure by Trump to act and protect members of his inner coterie could mean they will go up in flames, and possibly take the president with them, Ramey adds.
Mueller’s investigation, which started in May 2017, and — like investigations into the Watergate scandal under President Nixon, and Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan — can be expected to drag on for years to come.
Although Ramey said the investigation has so far moved quickly.
To deliver such a large number of indictments so early on in the investigation is really quite astonishing.
I think in all likelihood he won’t go the pardon route, even though it would be the cleanest, because he doesn’t want to look guilty, but this will probably make it [the investigation] drag out a lot longer.
Trump tweets up a storm
In a battery of 14 tweets posted by the President on the Russia investigation yesterday, Trump urged US voters to “wise up”, and not fall for Russian attempts to sew division.
If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
He also slammed the FBI for missing “all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter” last week.
On Thursday last week a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people and injured many more after opening fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!,” Trump wrote on the micro-blogging site.
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018