White House aides with legal exposure to these events have quickly reached four conclusions, according to conservations with Jonathan Swan and me:
- Mueller is burrowing in hard on the obstruction of justice angle.
- The “angry, meandering” draft White House justification for firing Comey — which was never released, but obtained by Mueller — could be used as evidence of Trump’s unvarnished thinking when venting to staff.
- Legal fees, with white-collar attorneys charging $1,000 an hour, get cripplingly expensive pretty quick. Watch for outside legal defense funds to pop up quickly.
- The investigation’s financial dimensions are worrisome. The focus on Michael Cohen, a Trump lawyer and confidant whose business dealings are intertwined with the president’s, has been particularly troubling for those in Trump’s close orbit. Cohen dealt with some colorful characters. And when plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow are fully picked apart, other questionable Russian characters may be drawn in.
Republicans close to the White House say every sign by Mueller — from his hiring of Mafia and money-laundering experts to his aggressive pursuit of witnesses and evidence — is that he’s going for the kill.