Please support this
holiday season!

Mueller's Team Remarkably Leak-Free

[ Posted Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 – 17:37 UTC ]

What with the holiday and all, I don't have time today to adequately comment on the big story in Washington this week: the indictments and plea deal connected to the investigation of Bob Mueller. Instead, I'm just going to offer up one brief observation that few in the media have yet made -- how remarkably tight-lipped the Mueller investigation has been, to date. In fact, all the rampant speculation that is currently flying about what to expect next from Mueller's team really proves the point, because speculation is all that is even possible in such a leak-free environment.

What we don't know about the investigation far outweighs what we do know. We don't know if Mueller has obtained a copy of Donald Trump's tax returns, which would seem to be an obvious step for him to have taken very early on in the investigation. We don't even know whether Monday's indictments were all that the grand jury filed (there are several other indictments on the same court docket that are sealed from public scrutiny, which has launched speculation as to whether some of them also came from Mueller's team). But we just don't know, because Mueller is running such a tight ship.

The speculation is running all over the map at the moment. Probably the juiciest thing to ponder is the absence of Michael Flynn from the indictments list so far. Flynn has the same sort of foreign influence problems (with Turkey) that Paul Manafort has (with Ukraine), but he remains unindicted. But Flynn, unlike all the other targets of the investigation, earlier indicated that he did have a story to tell -- but that he wouldn't do so until he had obtained immunity for himself (he was asking Congress to grant him immunity months ago, so he could freely testify before their committees). So what happened when Mueller took over the Justice Department investigation? Did Flynn strike an immunity deal (or, at the very least, a lenient plea deal) with Mueller and is now cooperating fully and singing like a little birdie? No one knows, but it sure is fun to speculate about. He's obviously got a story to tell and some dirt to dish, but we don't even know if he's already done so to Mueller's team or not.

Much of the commentary about "Mueller Monday" (as it is now being called) centers around "what message Mueller is sending" to all the other Trump players. Did the two indictments and the plea deal signal that Mueller is playing hardball, that Mueller has already flipped more targets of the investigation, that Mueller will be prosecuting any and all lawbreaking he uncovers along the way, or none of the above? Nobody knows this either, but the very fact that the pundits are so obsessed with Mueller's "message" shows that Mueller is actually sending out no messages and playing his cards very close to his vest. Because he makes no public statements and because there have been no major leaks, the punditocracy is left to read the tea leaves of what Mueller's official acts (the indictments and the plea deal) actually mean.

In other words, there is a journalistic vacuum surrounding the Mueller investigation. Massive unchecked speculation has rushed in to fill this void, but the void exists precisely because Mueller has kept such a tight lid on what his team is up to, and what their next steps may or may not be. And in Washington, that is truly remarkable.

Mueller, by now, has dozens of people working for him. Not all of them are high-powered attorneys (who know full well the value of secrecy in such an intense investigation). Some are clerical staff and underlings, one assumes. These are usually where the leaks spring from -- people authorized to read confidential documents in order for them to shuffle paper and make copies and document the evidence trail. And yet no Washington journalist has secured such a source of information from Mueller's team.

Compare this situation to the Trump White House. Trump's team leaks worse than a busted sieve, as evidenced by the fact that before the sun set yesterday the press already had the story of how Trump reacted to the morning's news (by sequestering himself in his official residence and watching cable television while having a tantrum). That's pretty leaky.

Mueller's team, on the other hand, has sprung no major leaks at all. In fact, they've really only sprung one small leak that I am even aware of, when advance notice of the impending indictments leaked to the media last Friday. This was likely the result of the legal process moving beyond Mueller's team and the federal grand jury, into courts that probably already have their own leaks. Tellingly, only the existence of the indictments was leaked on Friday -- and not who they covered -- meaning the information could have come from a very low-level staffer who wasn't even cleared to read the actual indictments themselves.

Rampant speculation over what Mueller is planning next is not going to go away, especially if his investigation remains as leak-free as it has been. We likely aren't going to find out the whole scope of his investigation until he has fully completed it, in other words. There will doubtless be more surprises along the way, and more shocking indictments filed. After each of these, we'll all enjoy another round of parlor speculation about "What message is Mueller sending?" and "What will Mueller do next?" This is because of the total lack of "unnamed sources," and even the complete absence of inside rumors from the Mueller team.

Personally, I find all of this extraordinary. Like the dog which remarkably didn't bark in the classic Sherlock Holmes story, what is truly amazing about the Mueller investigation so far is the leaks which have not happened. Speculation about what happens next is necessary to fill the airwaves because absolutely nobody outside Mueller's team has any idea whatsoever about what the team is up to and where they are heading next. The singular thing, Doctor Watson, is that there were no such leaks in the dead of night.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


22 Comments on “Mueller's Team Remarkably Leak-Free”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    I find his lack of leaks profoundly reassuring. It suggests to me that he's doing his job versus playing politics AND that he is extraordinarily competent.

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Nobody knew that The Law would take notice if you brazenly brag in public about your corruption like an orange goon.

  3. [3] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Oh yeah, like, who knew?

  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    This is going to be such a good movie, someday.

    You know I'm right.

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Balthasar -

    That's how I feel -- we're only halfway through the first reel, really.

    Can't wait to see the plot twists in the second reel!



  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, jack-o-lanterns have been extinguished and the porch lights are out, so I finally have some time for comments. I'm going to work backwards and address a whole bunch of columns I haven't gotten to yet, with the usual mea culpa for the delay...


  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, here's yesterday's Hallowe'en column responses:

    more in a bit...


  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Started in (but didn't finish) last week's FTP column:

    More tomorrow, I promise!



  9. [9] 
    John From Censornati wrote:


    You may have to eat your words. Mueller is a Republican and none of them have looked good during this orange atrocity.

  10. [10] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Mueller's first salvo of indictments has already caused secondary explosions.....Clovis is on fire and being pushed over the side without ceremony.

    There is speculation that Papadop was wired by Mueller's team. That is apparently standard operating procedure of the FBI....the whole White House Magazine may "brew up" which could pose a serous risk of Constitutional Collateral Damage (CCD) should Trump pull the red "Fire Mueller" lever. Rumor has it that Trump's lawyers have attached a "DO NOT PULL!!!" tag to the lever, but Trump doesn't read well or follow instructions.

    All this would be amusing if I didn't live in the USA.

    I think I'll wander over to the Trump Tweet Archive and check our the latest Crooked Hillary Smoke Screen.

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:

    RE those tweets, Trump has changed the subject to The NYC Terrorist.

    New Yorkers who have followed Trump over the decades know something important about the man. He will bully and delay right up to the brink, but once cornered, he folds faster than Suprman on laundry day. A vital part of his "art of the deal."

  12. [12] 
    TheStig wrote:

    About the relatively leak free Mueller team. Although the team is large, it seems highly compartmentalized by specialty. If something real gets out, Mueller has a pretty good idea of who it came from. By extension, if a news source does get some off the record info, they can be relatively confident it the info is genuine and not merely support staff gossip. Press release by "leak."

  13. [13] 
    Paula wrote:

    [9] John:

    You may have to eat your words. Mueller is a Republican and none of them have looked good during this orange atrocity.

    That's always in the back of my mind -- hoping Mueller is the exception. Because, yes, repubs as a group and individually have almost universally failed us, and are still failing us.

  14. [14] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I agree with Paula. Mueller's entire presentation, including Chris' point that he isn't actually giving one, is reassuring.
    Although it's scary that I feel like I'm casting about wildly to find even ONE adult in the room at this point.

  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    *I suspect that most of you faithful 'Weiganters' have totally unrealisic hopes and expectations of Mueller's effort.

    I don't know any more about who did what than anybody does, but ya all gotta remember, it isn't even illegal to get dirt on your political enemies from the Ruskies, or actually for that matter, anybody else!!

  16. [16] 
    neilm wrote:

    I don't know any more about who did what than anybody does, but ya all gotta remember, it isn't even illegal to get dirt on your political enemies from the Ruskies, or actually for that matter, anybody else!!

    There are a couple of illegal activities that I'm sure are under investigation:

    1. If the illegal hack of the DNC emails and subsequent release via Wikileaks involved Americans, even in the role of coordinating the timing of the release, then those Americans are in trouble

    2. If there was a concerted attempt by a foreign power create a quid-pro-quo with a candidate or his or her senior staff, then the Americans involved are in trouble. For example, if a member of the election committee set up meetings with Russian government representatives and agreed that if the Russians unleashed their troll army to influence the election and in return Russia would get sanctions relief, then there is a crime.

    Given that 45 himself asked the Russians to hack and release Hillary's emails, and the number of lies we already know about 45's team meeting with Russian agents, there is plenty of smoke to check out.

  17. [17] 
    neilm wrote:

    The real concern for 45, of course, is that Mueller will go through his financial history in the same fashion he did Paul Manafort. The laws that banks and most institutions have to adhere to regarding KYC (know your customer) are waived for property developers, but there are still some restrictions on money laundering that it is likely will be problematic for 45 and his family.

    I think there is a good chance that the resignation offer will be made to cut off the investigation - this will be spun as "for the good of the country" etc. and will only be available if 45 doesn't panic and fire Mueller. If he does then Mueller's replacement and the inevitable congressional hearings when the Democrats come back into power (remember Benghazi!!!) will go for the jugular - prison time.

  18. [18] 
    Paula wrote:

    [17} neilm: I think there is a good chance that the resignation offer will be made to cut off the investigation - this will be spun as "for the good of the country" etc. and will only be available if 45 doesn't panic and fire Mueller.

    I think so too. I think Trump may well have been more useful-idiot than mastermind re: Russian activities, but I think he's knee-deep in financial crimes going back a long time.

    I've thought that might be the best resolution in terms of his removal -- sparing us the impeachment (which he richly deserves but which Repubs don't want to do). Hopefully it would limit violence on the part of his nutcase followers. But I hope every other guilty bigwig is still pursued: Pence, Bannon, Priebus, Sessions, Ryan, McConnell, Rohrbacher, etc. either by/through Mueller or by Dems after 2018. Because, in a lot of ways, they're worse. Trump is a criminal but, until they helped him, he didn't hold political power. They helped him, even to the point of committing or covering up crimes themselves and these guys aren't idiots, don't have Alzheimers, know what the laws are, etc. Trump has always been a symptom of Republican rot, not a cause.

  19. [19] 
    Paula wrote:

    And Bannon. And, for that matter, the Mercers.

  20. [20] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Q. How will we know when Trump is about to resign?

    A. When Melania runs away.

    I think neilm proposes very plausible scenarios driving Trump to resign, but I think the timeline will drag out towards the midterms, when (and if) the Republican Party, and perhaps more importantly, when Donors to the Republican Party, feel Trump has outlived his usefulness.

    Trump has been on the brink of disaster for much of his adult life and is used to mental stress. He tends to play all his cards, even if his hand is poor. Then he folds, and pretends he has won. See comment 11.

    To neilm's list of resignation prods I would add the Corrupt Foreign
    Practices Act (easy to prosecute) and criminal tax evasion (which has no statute of limitations AND would impact his children).

    It's amusing to think Trump might defect.....visit a foreign country, and never go back to Air Force 1. Hole up in an embassy and make his way to Moscow to build a Trump Tower in sight of Red Square. That would be, excuse the pun, rich! : ). Let Putin put up with him...and vice versa.

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:


    If he does then Mueller's replacement and the inevitable congressional hearings when the Democrats come back into power (remember Benghazi!!!) will go for the jugular - prison time.

    Yes, sir. And at some point, Trump plays the "dementia card" he has up his sleeve, and the New York AG is prepared to make Benedict Donald's life a living hell regardless. :)

  22. [22] 
    MHorton wrote:


    Wouldn't be the first of Manafort's clients to do that, would he?

Comments for this article are closed.