The Slatest

Mueller’s Illegitimate Hoax Investigation Somehow Just Led to Another Indictment Involving the Trump Campaign

Manafort holds a cell phone to his ear as a credential is placed around his neck while he stands on the convention floor.
Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Rick Wilking/Reuters

On Wednesday, Donald Trump held a press conference to announce that he won’t speak to congressional Democrats unless they end the various ongoing committee investigations into his conduct. At the press conference, he displayed a graphic about Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, which noted how many search warrants, interviews, etc. it had conducted. His point was that if Mueller’s extensive inquiry didn’t find grounds to charge him for conspiring with Russian intelligence, what was the point of investigating further?

As an ABC reporter pointed out, though, that graphic was originally created by her network. And there was a second part to it: The part about how many of Trump’s advisers and associates were charged by the special counsel’s office for crimes including fraud, perjury, and witness tampering.

Mueller moreover referred a number of related cases to other Department of Justice prosecutors. We don’t know what all those cases are yet because information about them was redacted from his report to Attorney General William Barr. But one of them was likely revealed Thursday as the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District announced charges against Stephen Calk, the CEO of Federal Savings Bank. Calk is accused of facilitating loans in 2016 to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that Manafort might otherwise not have qualified for because he was on the verge of going broke—and Manafort, the feds say, paid Calk back by getting him a spot on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory committee and, later, recommending that the Trump transition team consider him for the position of undersecretary of the Army. [Update, May 23, 2019, at 3:25 p.m.: An attorney representing Calk says he “has done nothing wrong and will be exonerated at trial.”]

Barr implied at a press conference before releasing the Mueller report that Trump was justified in his efforts to end Mueller’s investigation because he was “frustrated” that it was unfair to him. The attorney general then explained in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the president has a right to shut down DOJ investigations into his conduct if they are “groundless” and based on “false allegations.” And yet here we are with another DOJ indictment describing an illegal scheme involving Trump’s campaign. One can only imagine what an investigation into Trump that wasn’t groundless might look like.