The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Does It Matter That Mueller Is Asking if Trump Knew in Advance About the Hacked Emails?

Donald Trump delivers a speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania on June 28, 2016, shortly after the news broke that Russian hackers had targeted the Democratic National Committee.
Donald Trump delivers a speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania on June 28, 2016, shortly after the news broke that Russian hackers had targeted the Democratic National Committee.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

NBC reported Wednesday that Robert Mueller is poking around the question of whether Donald Trump knew that Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton-related emails belonging to John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee in 2016 before those emails were leaked:

Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails. They have also asked about the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia.

The line of questioning suggests the special counsel, who is tasked with examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, is looking into possible coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates in disseminating the emails.

There are two ways to look at this news:

1. It’s a big deal.

2. It’s not a big deal.

Perhaps I should explain further. Theory 1 would be that Mueller, having obtained specific Trump-incriminating information about contacts that Russian operatives had with campaign foreign policy staffer George Papadopoulos and/or Donald Trump Jr. and/or campaign manager Paul Manafort, is checking this information with other witnesses. The reasoning behind this theory is that Mueller, in the part of his work as special counsel that’s already become public through indictments, has proven himself to be a careful investigator who puts himself on solid evidentiary ground before making any big move. And asking direct questions about whether the president was involved in a foreign conspiracy to commit a history-altering crime against his opponent is a pretty big move.

Theory 2 would be that the question of whether Trump knew about the hacked emails in advance is really the central question Mueller is investigating—the only one that, if answered affirmatively, actually might have the power to topple Trump’s presidency. It would be weird, really, if Mueller wasn’t asking about this, given that it is the main reason his investigation exists. So NBC’s scoop might just mean he’s doing obvious due diligence.

Which theory is correct? That’s the fun part—no one knows! Thirteen months into the 45th president’s tenure, no one knows whether he conspired with hostile foreign agents to help himself win his election or whether, if he did, he’ll ever be punished for it. It’s fun—it’s a lot of fun.

Today’s meter is unchanged, but getting antsy.

Impeach-O-Meter: 50 percent.