Robert Mueller has, at very long last, submitted his report to the Department of Justice. A driving question of the collected Russia investigations thus far: what does “collusion” really mean? In terms of legal consequence, the answer is frustratingly unattainable for those who don’t hold a JD, or don’t pore through every special counsel update – although that second camp is growing by the day. Mueller Twitter, for all its vexations and sideshows, has been a helpful resource to interpret the larger meaning of all the indictments, sentencings, bombshells, and reports that fizzled out.
Below is a rough guide to the voices leading the conversation about the special counsel on Twitter, and who will be essential to pay attention to whenever the Mueller report finally goes public. Among the moderates, one trend is clear: the best Mueller watchers are people with a law background who can quickly analyze and translate legal documents into most likely scenarios. The skeptics, meanwhile, insist that for all the riveting detail in Mueller’s findings, there’s just not that much actionable dirt on the president. And who doesn’t need a good alarmist in their life?
A University of New Hampshire professor, an attorney, and Twitter’s foremost abuser of the explainer-thread, Abramson treats nearly every development in the collected Russia investigations as a bombshell, plunging 10 tweets deep on how a new bit of information could damage a president who is all but untouchable. If you’re looking for restraint, look elsewhere. If you want a big-picture reminder of the staggering amount of norms Trump is violating, you’re in the right place.
A Harvard law professor and member of the Al Gore legal team that contested the results of the Florida recount, Tribe’s feed consists of huge-if-true takes on all sorts of stories that paint Trump in a negative light. In 2017, Tribe received flack for promoting a conspiracy theory suggesting Trump gave $10 million worth of rubles to former Representative Jason Chaffetz after the House Oversight chairman leaked a letter from the FBI.
Last summer, in a feature for New York, Chait laid out the case that Trump has been a Russian asset since he first visited Moscow in the ’80s, way before reports emerged that the FBI opened an inquiry into the possibility. He often notes how Trump and his surrogates keep changing their defense as prosecutors turn up more damning evidence.
Politico senior legal affairs contributor Josh Gerstein provides straight angles and breaks news on the court-related aspects of the investigation, like when circuit courts uphold the special counsel’s authority. In an act of public generosity, Gerstein reads legal filings front to back so we don’t have to – finding, for example, the detail that Mueller recommended Manafort serve 17.5 years deep in the footnotes.
A former special counsel for the Department of Defense, Goodman often concerns himself with the federal and state tax crimes that Trump and his organization may have violated. His threads manage to find the through-lines connecting convoluted stories.
Hennessey, the executive editor of Lawfare, gives insight into the likely process of Trump’s legal team. For example, when Michael Cohen submitted a document showing Trump’s lawyers edited his statement in front of Congress in 2017, a question emerged: did the president sign off on the changes? Hennessey’s answer: “It does defy common sense and ordinary lawyering practice to think that Trump’s lawyers would be freelancing on something so important without consulting with their client.”
Retweeting Donald Trump Jr. with a spicy angle is a classic pitfall of #resistance Twitter, but this CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor manages to do it well, explaining why the president’s son is mistaken in exact legal detail. Mariotti is also great distiller of court filings.
This former U.S. Attorney and University of Michigan law professor is a rare moderate willing to use the word “impeach,” and has made the argument that the House Judiciary Committee’s probe might be more damaging to the president than the special counsel’s investigation.
A vital legal mind with a background in intelligence – she spent three years as an FBI special agent – Rangappa is able to blend the two disciplines in ways that should be obviously relevant for analyzing the Mueller investigation. Rangappa falls in with the camp that believes Trump is not an “asset” because he “would make a terrible witting spy,” but that he is “easily manipulated and that Putin, a [former] KGB officer, knows how to pull his strings.”
Followers: 1 million
The Intercept co-founder might be the most high-profile doubter of the Mueller investigation’s significance who isn’t a registered Republican. From a 2018 New York profile: “In his eyes, the Russia-Trump story is a shiny red herring — one that distracts from the failures, corruption, and malice of the very Establishment so invested in promoting it. And when in January, as ‘Journalism Twitter’ was chastising the president for one outrage or another, Congress quietly passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize sweeping NSA surveillance, you had to admit Greenwald might have been onto something.”
A senior editor at the Federalist, Hemingway has called the Trump-Russia story a “hoax” and a “conspiracy theory,” and is suspicious of “how many journalists and DC types … are full-blown, unadulterated Russia-Trump truthers.” Look to Hemingway for a synopsis of conservative establishment case against the Mueller investigation.
This Wall Street Journal columnist has called House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff a “conspiracy theorist,” and posits that so far the information produced by Mueller’s team is more damning for the FBI than President Trump.
The Washington Examiner columnist and Fox News contributor wants the Mueller report to be released in full, arguing for as much transparency in Trump-Russia matters as possible. York posits that the Mueller report will likely not impact Trump on any collusion-related charges, as sentencing memos thus far have yet to mention any such action between the president and contacts in Moscow. York is also skeptical that Schiff’s probe will be able to find anything that Republican Devin Nunes’s House investigation did not.
Hume, a senior political analyst at Fox News, claims that using the word “collusion” to describe the Russia investigation is misleading, and offers a measured defense for the common argument that “nothing of consequence” will come from them.
The MAGA Counterpoint
An executive recruiter by trade, Mitchell gained a following on conservative Twitter during the GOP primaries, and hasn’t let up since, tweeting non-stop about the “witch hunt.” Recently, he put forward an argument which requires a great deal of faith in the president’s innocence: “The
Followers: 1 million
A staple of uncle-Twitter, the president of this legal blog has called the Mueller investigation a “Get Trump effort.” Stop in to see how the president’s defenders are fleshing out his “witch hunt” claims with legal arguments.
In April 2018, this Congressman from east Texas wrote a 48-page essay published by Sean Hannity that begins: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence.” Judging from past writing, expect Gohmert to issue an impassioned, if wordy rebuke of Mueller’s findings.
The night before Michael Cohen’s testimony, the Florida Congressman tweeted what appeared to be a threat at Cohen. This staunch defender of the president can be officially considered a wildcard.
A co-founder of the Federalist, Davis is the rare establishment conservative who has expressed more MAGA-aligned rhetoric on the special counsel, calling the inquiry “conspiracy mongering,” and Mueller’s defenders as “Resistance Russia truthers.”
Gorka was recently cut from the Fox News roster, so the former deputy assistant to the president’s best bet for attention these days is to vigorously defend his former boss online.
This post has been updated to reflect that Seth Abramson is a professor at the University of New Hampshire.