The Shape of Charges to Come?

For more than a year, Donald Trump has been adamant that he has no business interests in Russia and has received no loans from the country. But Robert Mueller, the US special counsel investigating Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, appears likely to turn up abundant evidence to the contrary.

WASHINGTON, DC – When the news broke last week about the specific documents sought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the federal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin, a chill fell over Trump’s already jittery White House. The documents to be turned over covered some familiar events that could well lead to Trump being charged with obstruction of justice, or might show that his campaign was, at the very least, interested in playing with the Russians.

The possible or even likely obstruction charge would derive from Trump’s various efforts to block the investigation. In particular, Trump asked FBI director James Comey to go easy in his investigation of retired General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser whom Trump reluctantly fired, ostensibly because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of post-election telephone calls with the Russian ambassador.

Pence then reassured the country that Flynn and the ambassador had simply exchanged small talk, such as Christmas greetings. In fact, they had discussed the possibility of Trump lifting sanctions that outgoing President Barack Obama had imposed on Russia as punishment for its interference in the election. Mueller no doubt wants to know if Trump was aware of or consented to Flynn’s discussions.