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Mueller Says Trump's a 'Subject,' Not a 'Target'

That seems to be good news, but the investigation could still go any number of directions.

Nate Jackson · Apr. 5, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly told President Donald Trump’s attorneys last month that Trump is not a criminal target in his unending investigation, though he is still a subject of that investigation. The Washington Post explained, “Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges.” It’s worth remembering, however, that a subject can always become a target.

But that’s not all. “The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.” Those reports are required, but it highlights the problem with Mueller’s open-ended mandate — it’s not just about collusion with Russia, or any other particular crime, for that matter; it’s about whatever Mueller can dig up. Ask Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and others. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will receive those confidential reports and decide if anything merits being made public.

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe argues, “Rosenstein can and surely will make the Mueller report public. It’s inconceivable that he’d try to stifle it, whatever its conclusions might be.” Rosenstein may also submit the matter to Congress rather than Mueller attempting to charge the president with a crime.

Mueller used the subject/target distinction to push again for an interview with Trump. For his part, Trump has said he’d welcome such an interview just to clear things up, but his lawyers strongly advise against it — as they should. This could be a strategic good cop-bad cop routine. Trump gets credit for being open to the interview while blaming his lawyers for preventing it. In any case, there’s far too much risk and too little reward to actually conduct the interview.

The news about Mueller’s classification of Trump is significant and certainly not being cheered by leftists. But there is still plenty of danger for Trump, both legally and politically. That’s true even though the entire basis for the investigation — collusion with Russia — is complete bunk.

As Mark Alexander wrote in February, “Robert Mueller should focus on the real obstruction conspiracy, the extent of Demo deep-state malfeasance and the collusion of his rear-guard operatives in the DoJ and FBI.”

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