The possibility of President Donald Trump thwarting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has hung over the probe since the beginning. Countless articles have been written about Trump’s ability (or lack of ability) to fire Mueller, or his boss Rod Rosenstein, or HIS boss Jeff Sessions.
Doing any of these things would hurt Trump politically, and even his attempts to do them may not work. But at the end of the day the president has great power, and he could probably force Mueller out if he really tried hard enough.
This is why many people have been afraid it would happen. If Mueller’s probe is shut down they fear that the public will be unable to get real answers about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But there was an article in the New York Times yesterday that described another way that the public can find out what Mueller has learned in his investigation even if it is stopped by the president.
The problem is if Trump shuts down Mueller, officials at the Department of Justice would then be in charge of the evidence that the special counsel has gathered. Whether that evidence ever gets released to the public would depend on the leadership in the department, who Trump can fire and replace if they don’t do his bidding.
But there’s another powerful entity that on its own could release the findings of Mueller’s probe directly to Congress: the grand jury.
The grand jury, impaneled by Mueller, is not within the control of the executive branch and thus not within Donald Trump‘s control. If granted permission by the presiding judge, the grand jury could release a summary of its findings in the Trump/Russia probe.
According to the Times:
“Echoing a move by the Watergate prosecutor in March 1974, the grand jury with which Mr. Mueller has been working could send a report about the evidence it has gathered directly to the House of Representatives, starting with the Judiciary Committee. And on Friday, seeking to draw more attention to that option, three prominent legal analysts asked a court to lift a veil of secrecy that has long kept that Watergate-era report hidden.”
Yesterday’s legal move asks for the release of a 55-page document, known as the “Road Map,” from 1974 which set forth all of the compiling evidence of President Richard Nixon’s misconduct as gathered by the Watergate prosecutor.
The legal experts say it “provides a key precedent for assessing the appropriate framework for Special Counsel Mueller to report to Congress any findings of potentially unlawful conduct by President Trump.”
According to the Times:
“It is uncertain how a Road Map-style grand jury report would play out in the Trump-Russia case. Justice Department rules permit Mr. Mueller’s supervisor to veto any unwarranted “investigative or prosecutorial step,” but it is not clear whether asking a grand jury to send a report to Congress qualifies as such. Mr. Mueller’s supervisor is currently Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, but that could change if Mr. Trump fires him or Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who is recused from the Russia investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein as the acting attorney general for that matter.
The option of a grand jury report could have implications if Mr. Trump were to force the Justice Department to shut down Mr. Mueller’s investigation. It is not clear what would happen if the grand jury members, on their own initiative, were to ask the judge presiding over their panel to transmit to Congress all the evidence they had gathered — without the executive branch’s request or approval.
If Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the November midterm elections, then Rep. Adam Schiff of California will become the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, replacing Rep. Devin Nunes. He could easily obtain the grand jury information from his counterpart in charge of the House Judiciary Committee.
Schiff has been perhaps the leading spokesperson in Congress about the need for oversight of the Trump administration. He has said many times that Republicans have abdicated their responsibility to hold Trump accountable. He has also said that there is much existing evidence about a Trump/Russia conspiracy, but that evidence has not been made public.
The possibility of Adam Schiff receiving information directly from the grand jury if Trump somehow shuts down the Mueller probe is very intriguing. We know what he would do with it: he would start up a new Russia investigation in his committee. He has also said he would begin an investigation into Trump money laundering.
With Adam Schiff in charge of the House investigation into Trump and Russia there is no question that the truth will eventually come out, and that is what the American public wants — and needs — to happen.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.