With a federal judge indicating a possible September start for the Manafort-Gates trial, Republicans fear Mueller probe could cost them the House and Senate in the midterms.
Politico reported on Tuesday that the criminal trials for Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and colleague Rick Gates are likely to begin in September or October of this year “at the height of the midterm campaign season, making an already unwelcome distraction for the White House and Republicans even more uncomfortable.”
Politico elaborated in a follow-up article published Wednesday, reporting that: “Robert Mueller’s Russia probe isn’t ending any time soon, and that’s bad news for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans already bracing for a possible 2018 Democratic midterm wave.”
While many Republicans insist the Trump-Russia saga is overblown, they worry headlines about federal indictments, high profile trials—and a potential blockbuster meeting between Mueller and Trump himself—could obscure their positive message ahead of November elections and threaten their House and Senate majorities.
“The timing of the Manafort-Gates trial will dictate major coverage going into early voting,” said veteran Republican strategist John Weaver. “And this is without knowing for certain how many more indictments and how much closer this Siberian political cancer gets near the Oval Office.”
“It’s mood music that doesn’t help,” agreed a senior Republican campaign strategist working on several midterm races. “Every day the party is talking about this investigation is a day they’re not talking about the economy and the tax cuts they provided and jobs and things that are successfully happening.”
A second GOP operative active in the midterm elections said there is no “good time” for a public trial of two of the president’s senior campaign officials. But, he added: “You’d rather it not be in the fall.”
Reporting on the upcoming trial and Politico‘s reports, Time Magazine added that:
The Mueller probe doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon, despite President Donald Trump’s lawyers repeatedly trying to assure him otherwise. Mueller’s office has secured guilty pleas from two other Trump campaign advisers, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn and the other man, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, admitted to lying about their contacts with Russians and are cooperating with the investigation.
Last week, Mueller served Trump’s former White House chief strategist and campaign adviser Steve Bannon with a grand jury subpoena, The New York Times reported. It was the first time Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to secure an interview, though the special counsel’s office has spoken with several other White House and campaign officials. He is also in talks with Trump’s legal team about arranging an interview with the president.