By Betsy Woodruff
Robert Mueller may be the face of the independent investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but a cybersecurity wonk on the federal bench may help decide Trump & Co.’s fate.
Behind the scenes, Beryl Howell is in a position to make pivotal decisions. And her importance could only grow. Federal court rules indicate that she signed off on Mueller’s request to assemble a grand jury, a highly secretive gathering of about two dozen people in Washington’s E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse that will grill witnesses and demand Trump associates’ documents.
And if (well, when) Team Trump’s lawyers hit back, Howell will be the umpire-in-chief: deciding whether or not Trump allies’ lawyers can quash subpoenas, and whether or not people like Jared Kushner can invoke what’s known as executive privilege to get out of testifying under oath before Mueller’s grand jury.
These decisions could be immensely consequential.
“Even though she worked for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she’s been very straight-arrow as a judge and she wouldn’t be impaneling a jury for the heck of it, or anything less than there being ample justification for it,” said a former federal lobbyist, referring to Howell’s previous work for Sen. Patrick Leahy. “She’s like Mueller: He wouldn’t ask for it unless he had more than enough evidence to justify it, and she wouldn’t have granted it unless he did.”
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Source: The Daily Beast