Friday, August 04, 2017
Not the Star Chamber but Close Enough
It's being reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury for the Trump-Russia investigation. It's such a powerful investigatory tool it would be surprising if he hadn't.
A grand jury is where perjurers fall into a very deep pit. The grand jury can subpoena anyone, even presidents. Nixon had to appear before the grand jury over Watergate. Same, same for Clinton over Whitewater. Even the most imperial president of them all won't be able to duck this.
It's what happens to those summoned that's really interesting. They're in for a grilling that can go hours, days, and they don't get to show up with counsel. The only lawyer is going to be the guy wielding the knife, asking the questions, literally goading them into lying under oath.
And, as Trump chose to surround himself with immediate family members, both during the campaign and in his administration, they too are fair game for Mueller and his team.
Son-in-law Jared knows what happens when you dick around with this process. His old man served a stretch in the Greybar Hotel for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. And old Charlie Kushner wasn't into a deal involving Russia, shady Russians, election meddling, money laundering, the FSB, who knows what else?
Jared probably knows the score as well as anybody. He's going to weigh his prospects and one of the factors on his mind will be how well his father-in-law is likely to fare when Mueller gets to grill him. Loose lips sink ships.
Conspiracies are especially vulnerable to grand jury investigations. Witnesses have no access to the transcripts of evidence given by previous witnesses. If the guy before you screwed up you may both be going down. If one of the witnesses who'll be grilled after you trips up, he may likewise take you down. If one of the witnesses is a pathological liar, capable of saying anything when given the Third Degree, the pucker factor can border on apoplexy. It's one thing to risk being hoist on your own petard. It's another thing altogether when you're at risk of being hoist on anyone of several others' petards.
If you know your inquisitor has a mountain of damning evidence and another mountain of implausible explanations that you and your colleagues have given you know that each of you will be in for a rough ride. You'll also know that the interrogator will be trying to trip each of you up in an effort to get one or more of you to cut a deal to roll over on everyone else.
It's not the Star Chamber and Mueller won't have hot irons, thumbscrews or the rack at his disposal but, given where he's starting from, the grand jury should suffice.
Here's a helpful explanation of the grand jury process from an American law professor who has been following the Mueller investigation. The last entry is intriguing. It suggests that FOX News propagandist, Sean Hannity, is in deep trouble. Apparently National Security Agency operatives have Hannity in telephone calls with Russian intelligence services. It's said the information has been relayed to Mueller.