Experts

As Robert Mueller Circles In On Paul Manafort, Experts See It As Ominous Sign For President

Donald Trump could be moving closer to impeachment, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly teaming up with the New York state attorney general in a move that some analysts believe could ensnare the president.

The investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential race has apparently shifted to New York, with reports that Robert Mueller is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s finances. Politico reported that the investigation is seen as a sign that the Russia probe is intensifying, and that investigators could be planning a prosecution that Trump cannot stop.

As the report noted, the president is not able to pardon state charges, so if Manafort ends up facing charges in New York, there is nothing Trump could do to stop it. Some legal experts believe that the investigation may have shifted after Donald Trump pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week, which many saw as a sign that Trump would use his pardon powers to help his allies in legal troubles. A state prosecution of Paul Manafort would leave the president unable to intervene, and could be part of a larger strategy to get Manafort to turn against Trump, Politico speculated.

“State and federal prosecutors believe the prospect of a presidential pardon could affect whether Manafort decides to cooperate investigators in the federal Trump investigation, said one of the people familiar with the matter.”

“While Trump has not signaled any public intention to pardon Manafort or anyone else involved in the Russia investigations, the president has privately discussed his pardon powers with his advisers.”

Paul Manafort has emerged as a key figure in the Russia investigation, with the FBI reportedly conducting a pre-dawn raid of Manafort’s home in July. As the Washington Post noted, the raid took place one day after Manafort met with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door interview.

Johnathan Chait of New York magazine speculated that Mueller’s targeting of Paul Manafort is a sign to Donald Trump that he will not be able to pardon his way out of the Russia investigation.

“Trump can pardon anybody facing charges from Mueller, but not from Schneiderman,” Chait wrote.

“It is probably significant that Mueller is letting this fact be known to Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s biggest source of leverage over Mueller just disappeared.”

While the developments this week have led to increasing speculation that Donald Trump could ultimately face impeachment, there is still no evidence connecting Trump to any of the allegations of collusion with Russian interests. For his part, Trump has denied any improper involvement with Russia during or after the campaign.

[Featured Image by Olivier Doulieryl/Pool/Getty Images]

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