“If we were confident the president did not commit a crime we would have said so,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller said at a May press conference after releasing his eponymous report. Now, we may find out what Mueller was talking about.
On Friday, as Trump and Republicans continued to attack the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., issued a decision that may have sealed Trump’s fate. Howell ruled that the Department of Justice must provide Congress with the unredacted version of the Mueller report as well as the grand jury testimony and related materials. The unredacted information disclosed in the report could answer what did Trump know and when did he know it.
Specifically, Howell’s ruling sets into motion a series of events that could reveal Trump knew in advance about the emails stolen by Russia and released by WikiLeaks in 2016 to harm Hillary Clinton. The events are the release of the unredacted Mueller report to Congress by October 30, the Roger Stone-WikiLeaks trial scheduled to begin on November 5, and the public impeachment inquiry hearings by the House that will start a week or so later. Collectively, these three events could show a pattern by Trump of seeking foreign assistance for his campaigns in 2016 and 2020, which is illegal and bolsters the impeachment inquiry.
Remember, Congress never received the unredacted Mueller report with the grand jury testimony and related materials they are entitled to because Attorney General William Barr wrongly withheld it since Mueller submitted his report to Barr last April. Now Congress is about to get it and that could be the undoing of Trump.
First, Howell’s decision not only requires that the redactions, grand jury testimony and underlying evidence in the Mueller report be released to the House Judiciary Committee by Oct. 30, but it also established that the impeachment inquiry is legitimate. “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” Howell said.
The Mueller report contains many redacted passages of interest, including possible references to a call between Trump and Stone about the release of emails by WikiLeaks that could confirm Michael Cohen’s testimony about it. Cohen alleged to the House Oversight Committee last March that Trump received a phone call from Stone between July 17 and 20, 2016, informing him that WikiLeaks was planning to release emails that would damage Hillary Clinton. By the end of that week, WikiLeaks posted thousands of emails stolen by Russia in an attempt to disrupt the Democratic National Convention and harm Clinton.
In addition, the alleged call between Trump and Stone is likely to be addressed in the Stone-WikiLeaks trial scheduled to start in Washington on Nov. 5. Stone faces a seven-count indictment that includes one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. The combination of the unredacted Mueller report and the Stone trial could confirm whether Trump knew about the release of the emails from Stone in advance.
Finally, the House plans to begin public hearings into the impeachment inquiry about a week after the start of the Stone-WikiLeaks trial. The inquiry is focused on the call by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky and the relationship between the release of military aid and the pressure to investigate Joe Biden. If the unredacted Mueller report and Stone trial reveal that Trump knew in advance that the stolen emails were going to be released, then it establishes a pattern by Trump of seeking foreign assistance to help his campaigns. That is illegal and thereby bolsters the investigation into his call to Zelensky.
Such disclosures would further increase public support for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. The combination of the facts, evidence, and public support would force many, if not most, Republicans to support Trump’s impeachment as well.
The stretch between Halloween and Thanksgiving could bring the greatest threat to Trump to date with much to fear and little to be thankful for. It may well be the beginning of his impeachment and the end of his time in office.