No quick end for Rus­sia in­quiries

Gird your­self. It’s a com­plex case, and it will take time.

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Erin Kelly

Ea­ger to see the WASH­ING­TON re­sults of all those Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Congress and in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s of­fice? Well, take a deep breath. It’ll prob­a­bly be awhile.

The con­stant stream of news about wit­nesses, sub­poe­nas and closed-door tes­ti­mony may make it feel as if the Rus­sia in­quiries have been go­ing on for­ever, but Mueller has been on the job only about 41⁄ months, and the three 2 con­gres­sional com­mit­tees con­duct­ing in­quiries didn’t re­ally start dig­ging un­til spring.

That’s not long when you con­sider that the Water­gate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Pres­i­dent Nixon took about 20 months — con­sid­ered rel­a­tively fast — and the White­wa­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bill Clin­ton, which mor­phed into the Mon­ica Lewin­sky in­ves­ti­ga­tion, spanned about five years.

“The pub­lic and the press have al­ways been im­pa­tient about how quickly these types of in­ves­ti­ga­tions are mov­ing, but they have got­ten more so,” said Charles Tiefer, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more School of Law and the spe­cial deputy chief coun­sel for the House Iran-Con­tra Com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion in the 1980s. “The 24-hour news cy­cle means that spec­u­la­tion out­runs the ac­tual in­ves­ti­ga­tion and de­mands re­sponses.”

Tiefer es­ti­mated it could take Congress un­til spring and Mueller about a year to be­gin to show re­sults, such as pre­lim­i­nary re­ports from the com­mit­tees or the first round of in­dict­ments from the spe­cial coun­sel.

The spe­cial coun­sel, the Se­nate and House In­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees and the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee are all in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

“They have dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cles

to over­come,” Tiefer said. Among them: per­suad­ing re­luc­tant wit­nesses to co­op­er­ate, ob­tain­ing scores of doc­u­ments from in­side the U.S. and Rus­sia, and try­ing to get one of the tar­gets to break ranks and be­come a wit­ness for the pros­e­cu­tion.

At­tor­ney Richard Ben-Veniste, an as­sis­tant spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor in the of­fice of the Water­gate Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tion Force and chief mi­nor­ity coun­sel to the Se­nate White­wa­ter Com­mit­tee, said the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Water­gate are “roughly com­pa­ra­ble in terms of the com­plex­ity.”

“Judged by other in­ves­ti­ga­tions and given the breadth of this one, I don’t think the pub­lic should be too ex­pec­tant, but rather ap­pre­ci­ate the com­plex­ity ... and scope of the areas that both Mueller and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors are charged with look­ing into,” BenVeniste said.

Bruce Udolf, a crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney in Florida who was an as­so­ci­ate in­de­pen­dent coun­sel in the White­wa­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said he be­lieves Mueller is “mov­ing at light­ning speed” in putting to­gether a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors and ques­tion­ing wit­nesses.

Mueller is deal­ing with com­pli­cated is­sues of pos­si­ble money laun­der­ing and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, with wit­nesses and ev­i­dence scat­tered across the globe, Udolf said.

“Of ne­ces­sity, it’s go­ing to take a very long time,” he said. “I would be sur­prised if it was com­pleted in less than a year.”

It’s more im­por­tant that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion be thor­ough than fast, Udolf said: “You turn over one stone, and it leads you down an­other path. And you’re deal­ing with peo­ple who are try­ing to pre­vent you from do­ing your job, which is get­ting to the truth.”

Lanny Davis, an at­tor­ney who spe­cial­izes in cri­sis man­age­ment and a for­mer spokesman and spe­cial coun­sel for Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, said no one wants these kinds of in­ves­ti­ga­tions over faster than an in­no­cent tar­get.

Davis said the best thing an at­tor­ney with an in­no­cent client

“The pub­lic and the press have al­ways been im­pa­tient. ... The 24-hour news cy­cle means that spec­u­la­tion out­runs the ac­tual in­ves­ti­ga­tion and de­mands re­sponses.” Charles Tiefer, spe­cial deputy chief coun­sel for the House Iran-Con­tra Com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion in the 1980s

can do is co­op­er­ate with pros­e­cu­tors and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors to help speed up the process.

“You have to do the op­po­site of what you’re taught to do as a pri­vate lawyer, which is to re­sist and drag things out,” Davis said. “In this sit­u­a­tion, if in­ves­ti­ga­tors don’t ask for some­thing, you of­fer it any­way. You drown them with pa­per, facts and trans­parency.”

It can be dif­fi­cult, how­ever, for at­tor­neys to con­vince their clients that this strat­egy is the best way to go. Of­ten, Davis said, a client’s ini­tial re­ac­tion will be: “What, are you kid­ding me? Whose side are you on?”

“You have to con­vince them that the way to end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is to help in­ves­ti­ga­tors, not stop them,” he said.

But when an at­tor­ney has a client who may be guilty, that strat­egy must change, Davis said. He said the re­sponse still can’t be “re­sist, re­sist, re­sist” be­cause that could end up get­ting a client charged with ob­struc­tion.

“You still have to co­op­er­ate,” he said. “But you don’t open the ki­mono and say come on in.”

For­mer se­na­tor Bob Gra­ham, a Florida Demo­crat who was chair­man of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee from 2001 to 2003, is urg­ing Congress to com­plete its in­quiries well be­fore the midterm elec­tions in Novem­ber 2018.

“I think there needs to be a real sense of ur­gency by Congress,” Gra­ham said. “There could be an­other round of Rus­sian med­dling. They need to get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened and pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again.”


Sens. Mark Warner and Richard Burr pre­pare to hear Rus­sia tes­ti­mony in June.

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