The Republican effort to ram through their massive tax overhaul hit a snag on Tuesday, when three provisions were found to run afoul of the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules–including, of all things, the short title. As a result, the House will have to pass the measure again on Wednesday before it goes to Donald Trump’s desk.
But that’s not the worst news Trump got today. Not by a longshot. Just hours after the House passed the tax overhaul conference report, Fox News’ top judicial analyst warned Trump that the investigation into Russia’s effort to hack the presidential election is now focused squarely on him.
Unlike most right-leaning pundits, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano knows that the Russia probe is as far from fake news as you can get. He also knows that special counsel Robert Mueller is definitely on to something–and that Trump has a lot of reasons to be very afraid.
On Tuesday, Napolitano told Fox News’ Shepard Smith that Trump has even more reason to be nervous. Namely, the emails Mueller obtained from the Trump transition team. Watch here.
It was obvious where this was going when Smith riffed on claims from Trump’s legal team and from congressional Republicans that Mueller illegally obtained the emails. Smith believed it was “ridiculous” to suggest that Mueller acted illegally. Napolitano agreed, noting that the transition team used computers, software and servers provided by the General Services Administration–and that they were well aware those emails were government property.
“Every time they went on those computers, every time you go in any GSA-owned computer, you get a notice–there’s no privacy, the email you send, and any response to it, belongs to the federal government.”
It looks like Napolitano was reiterating what GSA deputy counsel Lenny Loewentritt told BuzzFeed News earlier this week. According to Loewentritt, the transition team knew that any materials sent from GSA devices “would not be held back” from law enforcement. They also signed agreements stipulating that “no expectation of privacy can be assumed” while using GSA devices.
Napolitano added that as a result, Mueller either convinced a grand jury to issue a subpoena for the emails, or he simply had an FBI agent ask the GSA to hand over the emails–and either scenario would have been “perfectly legal.” Smith agreed, saying that Mueller would have been “derelict” to not get those emails.
Now here’s where it gets juicy. Napolitano noted that a significant number of people who worked on the transition team are now working in the West Wing–and many of them have already been interviewed. He believes that by then, Mueller already had the emails they sent while working on the transition. Smith realized their significance, saying that Mueller almost certainly knows whether the staffers were telling the truth.
Smith recalled that both campaigns were warned that Russia was trying to hack the election, and were also warned to alert the FBI about any feelers put out by Russians to either side. In contrast, Napolitano counts “in excess of 30” contacts from June 2015 to November 2016 between the Trump campaign and Russia that weren’t disclosed. He also noted that while we don’t know the full extent of what Mueller’s team has learned, we already know that this investigation is “ratcheting up,” and that no one has denied reports in The Washington Post that the investigation is going to plow on through 2018. Mueller’s team is due to meet with Trump’s legal team at the end of the week.
That led Smith to wonder who in Trump’s circle has the most to fear. Napolitano’s answer?
“Jared Kushner is in the line of fire. Donald Trump Jr. is in the line of fire. And of course, the president is in the line of fire.”
Ouch. Either Kushner or Donald Jr. alone would be enough to give Trump heartburn. After all, if Mueller is gunning for them, he might as well be gunning for Trump. But if Napolitano is right, Mueller has Trump himself in his crosshairs.
Napolitano harshly criticized his fellow conservatives for harrumphing that “there’s no there there.” In fact, Napolitano said, the evidence in this case is more akin to “a jigsaw puzzle with 100,000 pieces”–one that will take awhile to put together “so that we see the jigsaw puzzle completed.”
If anyone can put that puzzle together, it’s Mueller. And if Napolitano is right, Trump may not have long to savor his likely victory with the tax bill. After all, Mueller may be amassing evidence of a web of collusion that leads straight to the Oval Office.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available via a Creative Commons BY-SA license)