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In late October, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his right-hand man Rick Gates were indicted for conspiracy, money laundering, and other charges stemming from their work for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Andy Wright, a law professor and former associate counsel to President Obama, joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss what those indictments and the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos reveal about the next steps of Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign.
An edited excerpt:
Lindsay: Mueller’s strategy is obviously to roll up people further and further up the chain of command. What would happen if he got some real dirt on Jeff Sessions?
Andy: Jeff Sessions has had a rough week as people use a measuring stick of his prior statements against what they’re learning about the Papadopoulos statement. I think he’s already having a hard time. He’d already had several problems along the way when people looked back at what he represented during his Senate confirmation hearings, and as his actual contact with Russia. I don’t think that the attorney general has that much insulation, because he reportedly isn’t in great stead with the president. That’s been a touch-and-go relationship for a while. He doesn’t have as many patrons on the hill as he once did, given the number of revelations about inconsistencies with facts and his statements to Congress. I think he’s vulnerable to further disclosures forcing his removal.
Lindsay: Would it be possible for him to simply be charged as a regular person, as a sitting attorney general?
Andy: Yeah. That’s a huge decision, I don’t want to make light of it. There’s nothing that would constitutionally prohibit the Special Counsel from seeking the indictment of the sitting attorney general. I’d have to go back and look at the “tick-tock,” but Attorney General Mitchell was indicted during Watergate. I think he’d resigned at that point, but it related to conduct that occurred before, and during, his time in office. There’s certainly no immunity doctrine that preclude an indictment of a sitting attorney general. It would be extraordinary nonetheless.
“Commerce Secretary’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies,’ “by Mike McIntire, Sasha Chavkin, and Martha M. Hamilton for the New York Times, November 2017