Special counsel Robert Mueller may have secretly subpoenaed President Trump to appear before a grand jury in the Russia investigation, a former White House attorney says, pointing to a mysterious sealed filing that has been winding its way through the courts.
In Politico today, Nelson W. Cunningham analyzes a sealed grand jury case that was filed in Washington, D.C. district court on Aug. 16. The judge in the case issued a ruling on Sept. 19, which was appealed by one of the parties five days later — unusually fast. The special counsel issued a response on Oct. 1, “blindingly short as appellate proceedings go,” writes Cunningham. The case then ping-ponged forward and backward in the court system with unusual speed. Oral arguments in the case have been set for Dec. 16.
“The case traveled in recent months from U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, back down to Howell and back up again to the appeals court with most details shrouded in secrecy,” says Cunningham, a former federal prosecutor who served as general counsel for the White House Office of Administration under President Clinton.
Politico had previously reported that the special counsel’s office was involved in the case, because one of its reporters overheard a court clerk saying so.
“The bottom line is the most likely scenario is someone filed a motion to quash or otherwise resisted a grand jury subpoena, and the judge issued an order denying that and saying the witness needs to testify,” said Ted Boutrous, a D.C. attorney, in an earlier Politico report about the case.
Cunningham notes another clue that points to the president: During one appeal, the witness requested that the D.C. circuit court re-hear the case en banc — meaning that all 10 judges would review it. One judge recused himself: Gregory Katsas, who was appointed by President Trump.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow denied that Trump had been secretly subpoenaed by Mueller.
Responding to that denial on MSNBC Wednesday night, Cunningham said that an attorney in a sealed federal case would naturally deny that his client was involved — otherwise the case would no longer be sealed.