On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the Senate what most of us already knew–FBI Director James Comey was a goner even before Rosenstein wrote his memo to Donald Trump that supposedly justified his firing. What was even more telling was that, according to several Senators, Rosenstein was remarkably guarded in his comments about the investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia–a sure sign of how serious the investigation is already getting.
Well, just before the close of business on Friday, we may have learned one reason why Rosenstein was so tight-lipped. The Washington Post reports that a White House official has become “a person of interest” in the investigation. According to people close to the matter, this staffer is very close to Trump–a clear sign that this investigation has already moved to “the highest levels of government.”
Now who might that person be? New York magazine’s Yashar Ali believes that you can count the number of people who fit that description on one hand–literally.
Person described as "close to the President" and a "senior advisor" to the President. Only two people fit: Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller https://t.co/bgzPjSmprd
— Yashar (@yashar) May 19, 2017
Kushner and Miller are the only people in the White House with the title of “senior advisor.” Later, Ali tweeted that according to his sources, Kushner is the “person of interest.”
— Yashar (@yashar) May 19, 2017
The Independent, a major UK newspaper, subsequently picked up on Ali’s claim. However, at this point, it’s hard to call it anything other than speculation. Granted, the White House has acknowledged that Kushner had contacts with the Kremlin’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. But a lot of other people in the Trump administration have had contacts with Russian officials that look curious at best.
Nonetheless, it’s very telling that this investigation has already gotten deep inside the Trump inner circle. It sounds like Lindsey Graham was on to something on Thursday when he told reporters that the Russia investigation is no longer merely an intelligence matter, but a criminal one. Watch here, via C-SPAN.
According to The Post’s sources, the investigation is expected to ramp up considerably in the coming weeks. The investigators are preparing to conduct interviews and empanel a grand jury to issue any needed subpoenas. The investigation was already about to ramp up even before Rosenstein handed off the investigation to newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Post’s sources cautioned that such steps are not necessarily a sign that charges are in the offing. However, if a member of Trump’s inner circle is indeed a person of interest in this investigation, it goes without saying that this official better have a lawyer on speed dial.
That official may not be the only one who has reason to be nervous. CNN reports that White House lawyers are preparing for the prospect of Trump being impeached. CNN’s Evan Perez discussed this development on “The Situation Room.” Watch here.
Perez said that according to his sources, White House officials believe that impeachment is still a very remote possibility at this stage in the game. However, lawyers in the White House counsel’s office have been researching the impeachment process during the last week, and have even gone as far as to call in experts on that process.
Predictably, the White House denied that any research into impeachment procedures is underway. However, if these discussions are indeed taking place, the mere fact that they are taking place at all is very telling. Under normal circumstances, a White House has to worry at all that a Congress controlled by their own party will turn on them in such an epic matter–unless they are afraid that there is a ticking time bomb somewhere.
Couple that with the prospect that a current official close to Trump has apparently joined Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page in the investigators’ crosshairs–and the prospect that said official could potentially be the First Son-in-Law. All things considered, it’s looking more and more likely that Trump may be forced to eat his rants about this investigation being a “witch hunt”–possibly sooner than any of us could have thought.
(featured image courtesy Mike Maguire, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)