Introducing The Beeryblog Trump Indict-O-Meter™. Here you will find my best estimate, drawing from my knowledge of constitutional law, criminal law, and national politics, of how likely it is that a grand jury impaneled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller will indict Donald Trump himself — for colluding with Russia, for some other crime like money laundering or tax fraud, or, perhaps more likely than either of those possibilities, for obstruction of justice.
The Indict-O-Meter™ will be updated every time there is a notable development in the Mueller investigation, but not more than once per day.
Each installment will include 1) a summary of new developments impacting the likelihood of an indictment, 2) a pie chart indicating the current odds (represented as a percentage chance) that Trump will be indicted, and 3) a brief PowerPoint video explanation of the change from one installment to the next.
To set a baseline, I would have predicted last Wednesday, August 30, that there was a 35% chance that Trump would be indicted and a 65% chance that he would not:
I’d have based that estimate on the following factors:
- A pattern of obstruction, including asking then-FBI Director James Comey for a loyalty oath, asking Comey to drop the Michael Flynn investigation, firing Comey because of the Russia-collusion probe, threatening Comey and thereby tampering with a witness, and making repeated false statements to the public in an effort to influence an ongoing investigation;
- Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, which indicates a high likelihood of tax crimes or financial fraud;
- Trump’s associates: Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner, among others, are likely guilty of crimes, and in the case of the former two, they might flip; and
- Trump’s history of fraud and artifice.
- He’s president (this is the biggest factor cutting against indictment), and there is considerable debate about whether a sitting president can be indicted without doing violence to Article II of the Constitution;
- It’s uncertain that anyone has flipped, and the fact that Manafort’s lawyer continues to make statements denying any wrongdoing suggests that Manafort, at least, is still in the tank for Trump;
- Vladimir Putin has killed many of the people involved in the controversial dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, complicating efforts to develop evidence;
- Prosecuting a criminal case against any sitting president would mean litigating a host of complex matters involving executive immunity, executive and attorney-client privilege, and quite possibly the prerogative of the president to pardon himself and others; and
- Politics — Bob Mueller may think it best to leave Trump’s fate to the American people and their elected representatives in Congress.
That is far from an exhaustive analysis, but it’s a pretty good summary, if I may say so myself.
Before proceeding further, here’s a brief PowerPoint video summarizing what’s happened since Wednesday:
And here’s a more thorough written explanation:
What’s happened since?
Since Wednesday, we’ve learned the following:
- Mueller is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, making it significantly more likely that 1) Mueller has uncovered evidence of crimes and is seeking to develop an inter-jurisdictional team to manage criminal prosecutions, and 2) Mueller is preparing to circumvent any presidential pardon, as Trump can’t pardon anyone (including himself) who is charged with a state rather than federal crime;
- Mueller has involved the IRS crimes unit, making it significantly more likely that he has uncovered evidence of tax or financial crimes by Trump or his associates; and
- Mueller has come into possession of a letter drafted by Donald Trump before Trump fired Comey, making it significantly more likely that he is considering an obstruction-of-justice charge against Trump that will involve Trump’s shifting stories and lies about the Comey firing.
Since Wednesday, here’s a summary of the developments for and against Trump:
Where are we now?
Because of these significant developments, all of which cut against Trump, I now place the chances of a Trump indictment at 38% for and 62% against — a change of THREE percentage points: