A new twist in the Mueller investigation reveals that the special counsel’s office may have obtained thousands of emails from the Trump transition team illegally.
The emails were stored at the General Services Administration and were given to Mueller’s investigation by GSA staff. But it’s unclear whether the GSA had the authority to release the emails in the first place.
Career staff members at the agency “unlawfully produced TFA’s private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel’s Office,” according to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. It said the materials included “tens of thousands of emails.”
Trump’s transition team used facilities of the GSA, which helps manage the U.S. government bureaucracy, in the period between the Republican’s November presidential election victory and his inauguration in January.
The Trump team’s accusation adds to the growing friction between the president’s supporters and Mueller’s office as it investigates whether Russia interfered in the election and if Trump or anyone on his team colluded with Moscow.
Asked for comment, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We continue to cooperate fully with the special counsel and expect this process to wrap up soon.”
The GSA and officials at the special counsel’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats say there is a wide-ranging effort by the president’s allies on Capitol Hill and in some media outlets to discredit Mueller’s investigation.
Trump himself has loudly declared Mueller’s effort a waste of time. “There is absolutely no collusion. That has been proven,” Trump told reporters on Friday. Russia denies interfering in the election.
On Friday, Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said he fears the committee’s Republican majority intends to close its investigation of the topic prematurely. Some Republicans have argued that Mueller is biased against Trump and should be fired.
The letter was sent to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Regardless of whether GSA had the authority to release the emails to Mueller, his request shows just how far afield his investigation is getting. Trump and Republicans are obviously tiring of this partisan game. The Democrats are looking to drag out the investigation until they wring every last drop of political advantage out of the proceedings they can.
But there is method to the Dems’ madness. They have set an impeachment trap for Trump by making Mueller’s probe a continuous drag on his presidency to the point that Trump may feel he has no choice but to try and shut it down. He certainly has cause, but would it be good politics?
There are several Republicans on the Hill who would call for Trump’s impeachment if he fired Mueller. And voters would almost certainly take a dim view of a Mueller dismissal if only because they will be inundated with claims of “unprecedented lawlessness” by Trump or some such nonsense.
If Trump is patient, Mueller may blow up his own investigation as revelations of bias and partisanship are beginning to snowball. At the very least, he can hold off on firing Mueller until it becomes clear to the public that the special counsel has exceeded his mandate to the point that his investigation has been fatally compromised.