The Justice Department revealed in a court filing Sunday that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not make either Donald Trump Jr. or former White House Counsel Don McGahn testify before a grand jury he used for his Russia investigation. The filing was in response to U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell's ruling Thursday that the Justice Department was withholding too much information from the House Judiciary Committee in its ongoing wrangling with Attorney General William Barr over Mueller's evidence.
Howell appeared perplexed by Mueller's decision. "The Special Counsel's reasons remain unknown," she wrote in her opinion. "The reason is not that the individuals were insignificant to the investigation. To the contrary, both of the non-testifying individuals named in paragraph four figured in key events examined in the Mueller Report."
McGahn's lawyer offered one explanation, telling Politico that because McGahn "voluntarily agreed to be interviewed" for about 30 hours at Mueller's office, "there was no need for a grand jury subpoena." Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti found that explanation plausible. "If a witness agrees to be interviewed by FBI agents, as McGahn did, typically prosecutors won't put him in the grand jury to testify unless there's a concern that he will later change his story," he tweeted. "As for Trump Jr., this suggests to me that his lawyers said he would take the Fifth."
Lawyers for some of Mueller's other witnesses have said they believe Trump Jr. told Mueller's prosecutors he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before the grand jury, and Mueller's team decided not to compel his testimony with a promise of immunity, Politico reports. Howell also noted in her ruling last week that Mueller declined to subpoena President Trump for an interview or grand jury testimony despite being dissatisfied with the president's written responses to his prosecutors' questions.
The upshot of Sunday's filing is that is strengthens the House Judiciary Committee's case "that Barr redacted the Mueller [Report] itself improperly," journalist Marcy Wheeler argues, because it hides the "non-testimony" of Trump and his son "behind frivolous redactions." Peter Weber
"Of all the questions hanging over the special counsel investigation, one stands out: How will President Trump fare in the end?" asks Michael Schmidt and his colleagues at The New York Times. They run through Special Counsel Robert Mueller's three main options and what would happen next — Schmidt provides a good summary in the video below.
But one former senior FBI official who used to work under Mueller tells Vanity Fair the special counsel isn't really interested in Trump's fate. "Mueller doesn't care if he gets Trump," the official said. "He doesn't care if he doesn't get Trump. He has no political agenda. He is digging through the layers and bringing back the truth, and the truth is going to be whatever it is going to be." But he had some interesting thoughts on what Mueller is doing:
This investigation is classic Mueller: He is doing a classic, organized crime case. This is RICO 101, working your way up and sideways. You pop a few guys for gambling. ... You flip one guy who you arrest with no fanfare. It's exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life. It's just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world. [Former FBI official to Vanity Fair]
Vanity Fair's Chris Smith specifically examines Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's role, whether his exploitation of Mueller's inability or refusal to push back against the Giuliani-Trump scorched-earth attack on the investigation will prevail. The ex-FBI official said "Mueller is critically aware of everything that's being written or said" but "he completely tunes it out," for good reason. He brought up the old expression about the dangers of mud-wrestling with a pig, arguing that "the very fact that Mueller refuses to respond to the most outrageous criticisms and claims is the reason the pig is wrestling with itself in its own mud." Read more at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber