Let’s make no mistake about it–last week was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for Donald Trump. The release of Michael Wolff’s new book about the first year of the Trump administration, “Fire and Fury,” largely confirmed what a lot of people had long suspected. That is, Trump is a child trapped in a 71-year-old body, and at times has a tenuous–at best–relationship with reality.
But what we didn’t know is that something happened this week that could potentially be even more damaging to Trump in the long run. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempt to hack the presidential election in Trump’s favor, has turned his attention to the now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower between several Russian operatives and top Trump campaign officials.
The Los Angeles Times has learned that Mueller has asked at least one of the participants in the June 2016 gathering to come back for further questioning. He is also looking into Trump’s attempt to claim that the meeting was about adoption, and not–as documents show–to provide dirt about Hillary Clinton.
Mueller wants to ferret out the details of that meeting, which involved three of Trump’s most senior advisers–then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, eldest son Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law Jared Kushner. He also wants to know if Trump and others knew that they were lying when they tried to spin the meeting as an adoption discussion.
Mueller is also reportedly looking into a discussion between First Daughter Ivanka Trump and two of the Russians on hand for the meeting, lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Ivanka ran into the two Russians in the Trump Tower elevator while they were leaving the meeting. Mueller reportedly wants to get to the bottom of any contact between the two Russians and Trump’s inner circle.
The news that Mueller is looking into Ivanka’s contacts with Russians caused a lot of right-wing heads to explode.
This would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. Mueller is really grasping at straws now. Mueller Investigating Ivanka Trump for Saying Hello to Russians in Elevator Lobby After Controversial Trump Tower Meeting https://t.co/iUBw8keRUL
— Carol SC (@CAS5050) January 7, 2018
Jesus H. Christ…
Mueller investigating Ivanka Trump for saying Hello to Russians in elevator lobby.
Hitting a new low…
— Marlboro Man (@JohnCopper16) January 7, 2018
— Kevin Jackson (@KevinJacksonTBS) January 7, 2018
— Mike Allen (@AMike4761) January 6, 2018
Fake news! She's innocent.
There is no way she could spell Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Even the Natalia part.
"Ivanka Trump had contact with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya after Don Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting" https://t.co/lMozzYeoCp
— Mass Disturbance (@MassD) January 7, 2018
News flash, guys. If Donald Sr. and Donald Jr. had told the truth about this meeting from the start, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
Speaking of Donald Sr., this represents the closest Mueller has come to looking into wrongdoing by the president himself since the start of Mueller Time in October. After all, Trump’s attempt to claim the meeting was about adoption is firmly in “what did the president know, and when did he know it?” territory. Given numerous reports that Mueller is investigating potential wrongdoing on the part of Kushner and Donald Jr., it was only a matter of time before he focused on Trump directly. After all, any indictment of Kushner or Donald Jr. is tantamount to an indictment of the president.
Additionally, the renewed focus on the meeting can only be described as an effort by Mueller to push back against Manafort’s claims that Mueller is overreaching. On Wednesday, Manafort sued Mueller and the Justice Department, claiming that none of the charges against him relate directly to Russian interference with the election. However, as we all know, Manafort was the one Trump campaign official at that meeting who knew or should have known that this meeting was improper at best and illegal at worst.
Late last week, as the furor raged over Steve Bannon condemning the meeting as potentially treasonous, former Republican consultant Robert Traynham told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the Trumps should be more concerned about Mueller than Bannon. Watch here.
Traynham said that while Bannon is like a rock in a runner’s shoe, Mueller is a “big boulder,” since from a factual and research standpoint, Mueller isn’t going anywhere.
In light of this development, Traynham’s statement is remarkably prescient, to say the least. After all, this investigation has now gotten so close to Trump that the president probably feels Mueller breathing down his neck.
(featured image courtesy Obama White House, part of public domain)