Now that the official news is that former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates have been charged in a sealed indictment, we take a look at all this from 30,000 feet. What are the implications? If you ask President Trump – there aren’t any:
At face value, you would think Trump believes today’s announcement from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the end of the matter. He doesn’t believe that and no one with any sense believes that. The tweets are intended as messaging to Trump’s base, a bit of whistling through the graveyard (appropriate for Halloween) and a kind of shorthand statement for media consumption.
No, what is happening is that this investigation is shaping up like a construction project. Manafort , Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos are part of the concrete pour of the foundation and as construction proceeds, we’ll see the frame and by the time the roof goes on – Trump’s situation will be obvious. Hint – the building upon completion, will not look like Trump Tower, but more like a federal penitentiary.
Trump Media Circus trots out the jugglers and clowns
Trump’s homebrew media circus, from the clickbait all the way to Fox News, is frantically trying to package the Manafort indictment as being entirely peripheral to any issue of campaign collusion with Russia, but it is not.
While the indictment has to do with money laundering and falsified / withheld data on required lobbying reporting documents (filing Treasury Department forms required by the Bank Secrecy Act) , there is no reason to believe that additional charges won’t be forthcoming. This is not the beginning of the end but instead, the end of the beginning.
Another avenue of distraction designed to smoke up the room and obscure the focus on Trump Inc., is Hillary Clinton.
Trump finds that mentioning Hillary Clinton is something he can rely on to reinforce the notion with his remaining supporters that he is being unfairly targeted and that “Crooked Hillary” is being ignored.
However, I posed the following series of questions to one such person who was parroting this line over the weekend.
“Remember “LOCK HER UP!!!!”? Did he (Trump) not virtually pledge to do so? Pardon me if I am mistaken, but isn’t Donald Trump POTUS?
Does he not control the Justice Department? Did he not have glowing things to say about Hillary on election night and thank her “for her service to the country”?
And lastly – is this not a diversionary tactic from the multi-faceted investigation his campaign and administration are now under – and a deflection from the Manafort indictment – just the first of many to come?”
Bob Mueller’s just getting warmed up
The Russiagate matter under investigation is multi-dimensional and as a spider web has a multitude of interconnected and networked strands – so does Mueller’s investigation in macro.
There is a universe of money laundering, perjured testimony to Congress, obstruction of justice and collusion with a foreign power still being examined and the individuals subject to arrest by federal agents today, will no doubt be subject to extensive interviews that will reveal further leads or confirm the direction Mueller and his team are moving in.
As D.C. attorney Jeffrey Jacobovitz noted, “Mueller wouldn’t have hired 16, 17 people to investigate these events just to indict some tangential person unrelated to the campaign.”
Remember also that a Federal Grand Jury is still in operation and that earlier this month Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R- S.C.) said Oct. 4 “we have not come to any final conclusions” and told reporters that the investigation has in fact, “expanded the initial inquiry”, not contracted it and that it is following additional threads and leads that have emerged consequential to the investigation.
I’d caution anyone who thinks that Manafort’s exposure for other charges has been precluded by this particular specific indictment. As John F. Lauro, a former federal prosecutor in New York City wrote in a CNBC column:
Mueller now has someone at the top of the Trump pyramid he can squeeze. The next step will be for Mueller to suggest to Manafort and his team that he can reduce his prison exposure by “cooperating” with the investigation – meaning giving information about others and talking about the campaign. This gives Mueller a tremendous advantage in the investigation.
Get to know George Papadopoulos
Conveniently being ignored by Trump’s media surrogates is George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about conversations with an unnamed “professor” connected to the Russian government.
The conversations, Mueller’s court filing details, centers on the quest to acquire “thousands of emails” promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The indictment and investigative reports including those of the Washington Post, indicate that Papadopoulos, as a Trump campaign operative pursued communications between the campaign and Russian officials connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Putin himself.
Papadopoulos may also provide information to prosecutors that compromises Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions – not to mention Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., as it is highly unlikely that the meetings between Kushner, Trump Jr., Manafort and the Russian attorney were entirely random and unrelated.
Stay tuned, it’s all going to heat up from here.