Let me repeat: The President of the United States asked the top law enforcement official in the country to end an investigation into a) Russia’s active-measures campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton and b) the possibility that a member (or members) of the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to aid that end goal.
Perhaps the best evidence of the importance of this tweet is that Trump’s lawyers immediately sought to walk the tweet back. Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Dana Bash that Trump was “was expressing his opinion on his favorite medium, Twitter, for asserting his First Amendment rights” and said the tweet wasn’t a demand.
Never before has Trump specifically direct Sessions to end the investigation. Why now?
Trump himself provided a semblance of an answer to that question moments after he tweeted out his call for Sessions to bring the special counsel probe to an end. Ten minutes after the Sessions tweet, Trump sent this one
“Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders. He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!”
Manafort, who served as Trump campaign chairman and de facto campaign manager from the spring until the late summer of 2016, is currently in the midst of a trial in which he faces numerous charges of financial improprieties related to his work for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government. The charges against Manafort stem directly from the Mueller probe and are regarded as the leading edge of the former FBI director’s investigation — which is expected to reach its conclusion sometime this fall.
And then there’s this: Last week we learned — thanks to CNN reporting!
— that former Trump personal fixer Michael Cohen says he is willing to tell Mueller that Trump had advance knowledge of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top Trump campaign officials and a group of Russians. Trump has repeatedly denied he knew about the meeting, which came about after the Russians — through an intermediary named Rob Goldstone — promised dirt on Clinton to Donald Trump Jr. (Speaking of Don Jr., he has testified to Congress under oath that he never told his father about the meeting before it happened.)
Five people have already pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes in relation to the Mueller probe, and two high-profile former Trump staffers — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates — are cooperating with Mueller. Cohen, who could well face criminal charges on unrelated matters in connection with an ongoing investigation by the Southern District of New York, is also seen as a potential cooperating witness.