The end appears near in the probe of alleged Russian interference into America’s 2016 election.
However, for President Donald Trump, it could be the beginning of a process that some observers believe will lead to impeachment — or even a Nixon-style resignation.
And the 45th president could be showing signs of cracking under the pressure with the resignation this week of his lawyer, John Dowd.
Already four former Trump advisers, 13 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer have been indicted by Mueller as he methodically seeps through evidence and builds his case presumably against the commander in chief.
Five of the indicted have pled guilty, including most recently former Trump staffer Rick Gates.
Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos have also pled guilty to making false statements about their contacts with Russian officials while Gates and Paul Manafort face tax, money laundering and other charges that’s related to their work for Ukraine and a Russian-affiliated Ukrainian political party.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion, and the emboldened president — apparently against the advice of counsel — publicly has said he’s ready to meet with Mueller.
It’s a risky proposition in what the New York Times calls the most politically consequential investigation in decades that’s led to Trump refashioning “his legal team several times, a revolving door that mirrors the high turnover among senior White House and campaign aides.”
“I love the president,” Dowd told the Times. “I wish him the best of luck. I think he has a really good case.”
Now, after Dowd’s departure, the Times said Trump will be advised by a cadre of lawyers better known for their television and advocacy work than their courtroom triumphs.
He’s already hired Joseph E. diGenova, a longtime District lawyer who has pushed the theory on Fox News that the FBI and Justice Department framed Trump.
A former United States attorney, diGenova has been on television in recent years more than he has been in court, the newspaper reported.
He has appeared in only three federal criminal cases in the past two decades, according to the national database of federal court records, and has not filed an appearance in a federal criminal case in eight years.
Trump also has Jay Sekulow assisting him for what might soon be a showdown with Mueller.
Sekulow, a constitutional lawyer and radio host, has specialized in religious freedom and campaign finance cases and appeared in numerous civil cases, including filing lawsuits and amicus briefs in recent years against the Obama administration.
Most notably, Sekulow sued the IRS over improper delays in processing tax-exempt status for conservative groups.
However, as it appears likely that if the president is indeed charged it would be for obstruction of justice tied to his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, one legal expert believes the attorney Trump really wants is someone who’s dead.
Paul Callan, who works for CNN and is a former New York homicide prosecutor and current counsel at the New York firm of Edelman & Edelman Pc, said it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump wants someone in the vein of the late Roy Cohn, a legendary and controversial attorney who pushed legal tactics to the limits for a dazzling array of clients, including senators, organized-crime figures and high rollers in sports and entertainment.
Callan said the conclusion could only be that Trump wants to go to war against Mueller, using the tactics favored by his onetime mentor Cohn, who gained fame decades earlier as counsel to the notorious McCarthy committee in the 1950s.
“In effect, the president wants to wage an aggressive, and probably dirty war, on the special counsel,” Callan said. “Watch for forceful attacks on Mueller, including calls for his dismissal, shakeups at the Justice Department and FBI as well as presidential noncooperation with the Mueller probe. The ghost of Roy Cohn is in the air, but perhaps Trump should be careful.”
By the time of his death, Cohn had been disbarred for dishonesty and his career shattered.
“A better spirit to invoke might be that of Richard Nixon, who learned that going to war with a special prosecutor is the path to resignation and disgrace rather than vindication,” Callan said.