Rep. Heck: Beginning of end for Trump administration

Rep. Heck: Beginning of end for Trump administration
Copyright 2018 CNN

Rep. Denny Heck said Wednesday that recent indictments and sentencing memos show “the walls are closing in and this is the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.”

“In light of what happened today,” the Washington state Democrat told Erin Burnett on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” “in light of all the events of the last couple of weeks and all the sentencing memos that have been filed now — 36 indictments, three prison terms and the like — I’m prepared to say something I’ve never said: The writing’s on the wall, the walls are closing in and this is the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.”

Heck, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition is “getting closer and closer.”

Earlier Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s former longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including campaign finance violations and tax evasion. Cohen implicated the President in August when he pleaded guilty in federal court and said that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he had kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the campaign.

“They now have the President as an unindicted co-conspirator for campaign finance laws, breaking campaign finance laws,” Heck told CNN.

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina is slated to appear Thursday in DC federal court to plead guilty to conspiracy as part of a deal with prosecutors. Butina was making inroads with the National Rifle Association and prominent conservatives to try to bolster Russian interests. Federal investigators will likely try to figure out how she fit into the larger picture of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Heck said Butina is just “one of many. We have now documented that there were at least 16 Trump operatives who had communication or interaction with Russians or Russian operatives during the course of the campaign, so she doesn’t stand out all by herself.”

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort also pleaded guilty earlier this year to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering, while publicly admitting he had committed several other financial and lobbying crimes. He separately was found guilty by a jury in Virginia of eight financial fraud charges related to his Ukrainian lobbying proceeds. Mueller’s office is considering bringing more criminal charges against Manafort after it accused him of violating his plea deal to cooperate with prosecutors.

Heck told Burnett that in addition to Russian interference, Mueller is “exploring, as we full well know, obstruction of justice activity on the part of either the President or people on his behalf.”

“I don’t think that Bob Mueller’s going to be deterred here,” Heck said. “It’s interesting to note that yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the battle of Mutter’s Ridge in Vietnam, where a very young second lieutenant, Mueller, won the Bronze Star for valor.”

Trump brushed off a question about his associates’ interactions with Russians before and during his presidential campaign as just “peanut stuff” during an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

“The stuff you’re talking about is peanut stuff,” the President told Reuters.