Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge says the Robert Mueller investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election is currently pursuing two paths.
The former federal prosecutor, banker and 2016 Democratic Senate nominee said developments on Friday (Dec. 1) involving President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn appear centered around Russian influence in the Trump campaign, transition and administration. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI investigators in a move that represented cooperation with the prosecution in exchange for leniency.
“What happened on Friday with the Michael Flynn plea is very significant,” Eldridge said. “The big elephant in the room is, did anyone on the Trump campaign know of Russia’s significant attempts to influence the election? We have laws in this country, election laws designed to prevent foreign influence in the election and certainly designed to prevent foreign collusion with a campaign. I don’t think anybody, unless they’re in the special counsel’s office has all the facts to make that determination.”
Eldridge noted that Flynn’s light plea compared to potential criminal liability would suggest that he is cooperating with Mueller’s team to the fullest extent and will offer much insight into the campaign and post-campaign Trump world.
However, he sees the Manafort indictment as the key to examining potential financial connections between Russia and Trump’s affairs.
“Well, he [Mueller] is certainly looking at the money trail. That was clear less in the Flynn indictment, which has to do with lying in December of ’16, and more with Manafort. You see basically with Manafort an elaborate money laundering scheme to have foreign money that was undisclosed either in necessary disclosures, required disclosures, as a foreign representative in this country, or in required foreign bank account disclosures. So you definitely have a financial component to this,” Eldridge said.
As for the president’s assertion that the investigation will be over by Christmas, Eldridge scoffs.
“The President can say as much as he wants that he wants it to go away, but it’s not going to, and it shouldn’t. As a country, we deserve to know the facts of what happened,” he said.
Eldridge briefly commented on an ongoing investigation into potential criminal activity involving Arkansas legislators. Since his term as a federal prosecutor overlapped with the investigation, he declined to say much.
“I really can’t get into that given my involvement in that investigation, but I would watch it for awhile,” Eldridge said.
Watch Eldridge’s full interview below, including his comments about the late Judge G. Thomas Eisele, who passed away last week at the age of 94. Eldridge clerked for Eisele.