Opinion: Two (maybe three) big developments in Mueller’s probe

Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager, talks on the phone at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 17, 2016. (Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

A man who led the Trump campaign for part of 2016 surrendered himself Monday on charges that include conspiracy against the United States. And that was the relatively good news about the president’s (former) men.

Paul Manafort and a former business associate, Richard Gates, are charged with failing to register or report income from their work as lobbyists for the government of Ukraine for more than a decade. But the indictment, released Monday, does not refer to Manafort’s work during the summer of 2016 as campaign manager of Trump’s presidential campaign. In fact, there’s no indication — in this indictment, anyway — prosecutors have established that Manafort was part of an alleged collusion between the campaign and the Russian government.

UPDATE: Both Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in a court appearance Monday afternoon.

Unfortunately for Trump supporters, Manafort’s indictment wasn’t the only news to break from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion. Also Monday, Mueller’s office announced a guilty plea on charges of lying to FBI agents by a man named George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign. Manafort is the bigger name, but Papadopoulos may prove to be the bigger story.

A plea document released Monday says Papadopoulos lied to investigators back in January about the timing and nature of his meetings and communications during 2016 with unnamed people overseas about a possible meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and about the existence of “thousands of emails” and “dirt” Moscow had about Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

It’s important here to note this: On its own, the Papadopoulos plea proves nothing about possible collusion. There’s nothing in the document released Monday that indicates the campaign took what Papadopoulos was offering in the way of meetings with or “dirt” from the Russians. Most of the information in the document concerns what Papadopoulos learned from the foreigners — a professor based in London he met in Italy, a Russian woman he met via the professor in London, and officials with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs — and passed along to higher-ranking officials in the campaign. The other campaign officials’ responses are not generally included, although a footnote in the document observes that on one occasion his contact at the campaign forwarded his email to another campaign official, saying: “Let(‘)s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” (Not explained is exactly what kind of signal, and to whom, the campaign didn’t want to send.)

That said, it’s also important to note that a charge such as making false statements, and a defendant such as a relatively junior member of an organization under investigation, are a time-honored way for federal prosecutors to begin building or revealing their broader case in public. Papadopoulos was arrested back in July, and the document says that since then he has “met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

There could hardly be a clearer sign Papadopoulos’ cooperation with investigators will probably lead to other charges against other people. What, and against whom, are the big questions.

In at least a couple of cases, the timing of some of these events is … curious:

  • Papadopoulos met with federal agents for the first time “on or around Jan. 27, 2017.” Now, Jan. 27 happens to be the day President Trump met with then-FBI Director James Comey for a one-on-one dinner at the White House. That night, Comey told Trump for the second time that he was not personally under investigation. It’s also the night Trump told Comey he “need(ed) loyalty” and Comey demurred. Maybe there’s a connection between the two events that day; maybe it’s a coincidence.
  • On July 25, Manafort appeared before the Senate intelligence committee. On July 26, FBI agents raided Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Va., at Mueller’s behest. On July 27, Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Again: connection, or coincidence?

And now, because this story doesn’t have enough twists and turns:

The Podesta Group earlier this year filed new disclosures about its work with a European think tank with ties to the same Ukrainian political party for whom Manafort worked. Last week, NBC News reported Mueller was also investigating the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta’s brother, John, was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Add that to the news that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped pay the firm that produced the infamous dossier about Trump’s activities in Russia, and it appears the range of possibilities here is quite wide. Perhaps no one colluded with the Russians. Perhaps the Trump campaign did; perhaps the Clinton campaign did. Perhaps the Russians played both sides for fools. Perhaps both campaigns were rotten from the head down, confirming many Americans’ suspicions last year that the political system had produced a big, nasty mess.

Hint: Those last two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

In any case, it seems clear the Mueller investigation is making progress and isn’t nearly finished.

Reader Comments 0

173 comments
PDPDP8
PDPDP8

There is so much background evidence about coercion by tRump and his surrogates it is laughable. Kyle is loosing face quickly by putting Party before country and defending an indefensible tRump.

breckenridge
breckenridge

Trump was right out front yesterday with the Muslim bashing.


Funny though.  When the White Nationalist terrorist ran people down in Charlottesville, he blamed both sides.

At any rate I'm betting Trump ends up charged with tax evasion.  Go get 'em Mueller.

bendedknee
bendedknee

Clovis singing to grand jury; more to come.

Nice how Kyle avoids the obvious that Trump would never have been elected without Russian assistance and GOP silence.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The Congress needs to be taking a hard look at these far-left federal judges that legislate from the bench to block this administrations efforts to control immigration and block as best that can be done the radical Islamic slime from entering our country.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit Do you have a problem with the Constitution? We have a judicial branch for a reason.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @SGTGrit 

Evidently you fail to understand the difference between the legislative branch and the judicial branch.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit He had a mental illness.  We need more funding for mental illness... We don't need to do anything else, right?

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The radical Islamic jihadists are being trained to select vehicles as their weapon of choice. Only fools believe that guns are the only weapon to perpetrate mass murder.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit


They will put up barriers to help stop car attacks.  They FBI will put in more background checks to stop people from radicalizing the same way he did.  They will track his websites and add them to the watch list.  They will actually do things to prevent this from happening again.


Smart people know things will happen with guns or cars.  They also believe in doing things to prevent it from happening again.  The real fools are people who allow mass murderers to continue to utilize their weapons freely.  

Starik
Starik

@JFMcNamara @SGTGrit How in the world can we finance sufficient barriers to prevent car attacks? They can't be stopped. They should be ignored. Don't let a few, or a few hundred religious nuts affect our lives.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@Starik @JFMcNamara @SGTGrit 


Look here now.......Oswald shot JFK.  Security tightened up considerably, yet Hinkley still managed to shoot Reagan.  The US president is the most protected person on the planet. 

The point? Anyone can be killed. And we simply can't let a fat tub of goo like Steve Bannon send the entire country into foolish Muslim tremors.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

We already have lots of barriers in place. NY specifically has moved to protect itself against this type of attack.

Also, you missed the main idea of my post. There will be some changes as a result of this attack and no one will complain. Laa Vegas resulted in no changes at all. He was one of the main people fighting for no changes, but demands Congressional change now.

breckenridge
breckenridge

May the 8 bicyclists killed in New York City today rest in peace.


May the 12,876 people killed by guns in America this year rest in peace.


May the 26,476 people injured by guns in America this year make a full recovery.

Doomy
Doomy

"It’s important here to note this: On its own, the Papadopoulos plea proves nothing about possible collusion. There’s nothing in the document released Monday that indicates the campaign took what Papadopoulos was offering in the way of meetings with or “dirt” from the Russians."


Much ado about nada. Like I said- Mueller will get some folks on procedural issues and on issues that have nothing to do with Russian collusion. When you go fishing for a crime you can always find something. But the idea that he will find evidence of full blown collusion between Trump and the Russians is the stuff of fantasy. 


Ya'll lemme know when there's a money trail between Trump and the Russians like there is between the Clintons and the Russians which, btw, amounts to tens of millions of dollars after the uranium deal was approved. 


Toodles, Doomy.

PDPDP8
PDPDP8

What a fool...you do know HC had nothing to do with Uranium deal. You do know it is illegal to sell uranium to another country..with out congressional approval.

But, but won’t work on uranium deal.

BTC
BTC

@Doomy If there was nothing to fear, the Trumpster would not spend so much time and energy deflecting!

breckenridge
breckenridge

October 30 - On “The 700 Club” this morning, televangelist Pat Robertson reacted to the news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by calling on President Trump to issue a blanket pardon of everyone who might be implicated in the probe and to then shut down the investigation entirely.

An individual cannot be pardoned by the president unless he has been charged with a crime.  He need not be convicted, but he must be charged.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@Starik @breckenridge @RoadScholar 

Now he is just a TV preacher.  He used to be - no surprise here - a Southern Baptist preacher.

As I understand the exemption rule, it specifically forbids preachers from endorsing candidates for a political office. But that is where it ends.

Robertson does have a murky past. He was involved in the blood diamond business with Charles Taylor of Liberia. He was also involved with a Paul Manafort client - the ruthless, despotic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The libs are having cerebral orgasms over these indictments. I wonder what they'll do if Mueller has some high ranking Democrats in the cross hairs as he should. If he doesn't a special council should be convened to get deep into Uranium One.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit 

Uranium One? There is nothing there.

However that Podesta guy might well be dragging a wagon load of dung around.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit Why do you need a special council. Two House committees, led by Republicans, are being convened. 


Secondly, the Uranium deal was analyzed by nine different government agencies before approval.


Finally, they have already determined that the payments to the Clintons were legal.  


Republicans are desperate for anything to prove that they aren't the only one's who are corrupt.  The problem is that they are.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit I do not know about “cerebral orgasms,” SGTGrit must be speaking from personal experience, but I recognize the deep funk the Trumpists are in when they feel the noose of Mueller’s investigation tightening, which makes them invent expressions like “cerebral orgasms.”

Starik
Starik

@breckenridge @SGTGrit If you're a real patriot, you welcome investigations, and charges (if justified), applied to Republicans,  Democrats and Trumpists.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Starik @JFMcNamara @SGTGrit You reallyexpect the repubs to include a Dem in anything? They came up with a compromise with both parties on ACA , and then the repubs changed their minds and Ryan won't even let anything come to the floor!


Hypocrites!


Liars!

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV @SGTGrit 

Well Mark maybe in your case it's more of a physical arousal due to these Mueller indictments that produces an orgasm.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV 

Sorry I didn't mean to unmask your perversion.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit @MarkVV As I wrote before, I  am sorry for your mental condition. I hope you will find a good shrink soon to help you. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

Meanwhile.......


October 31 - A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a White House policy barring military service by transgender troops, ruling that it was based on “disapproval of transgender people generally.”

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia found the administration’s justification for the ban, which was set to take effect in March 2018, to be suspect and likely unconstitutional. She ruled that the military’s current policy should remain in place.

“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all,” the judge wrote in a strongly worded, 76-page ruling. “In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”


Bill72
Bill72

Keep sucking on that Drumpf kool-aid, Kyle...can't wait to see what you say when The Tweeter In Chief's house of cards collapses.  #butheremails  

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Papadopolos is not a minion nobody.  Minion nobodies don't sit in meetings with the candidate, take campaign trips overseas, or have access to the campaign manager. They definitely don't show up on CNN as key advisers.  Let's pump our brakes on him being no one.  


Secondly, he is exactly the type of guy you would want communicating with Russia.  He is low level and unlikely to draw suspicion.  This guy was a key member of their team. 


https://i.ytimg.com/vi/bKM1NwvchNU/maxresdefault.jpg

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JFMcNamara


I agree but he could have been acting on his own accord. Lets see those emails. Who else knew of his actions and who was he reporting to?

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

More to come....let sunshine do the job

breckenridge
breckenridge

Not one piece of evidence Trump has done one thing illegal or even shady.

But we don't know what the Mueller team will, or has, found in Trump's personal finances going back however long.

And if there is some stuff? It's Trump own damn fault.  Had Trump not fired Comey there would be no Mueller investigation. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@breckenridge


This all began with the Trump "Comey tapes" tweet. Frankly I want someone looking into Trump's finances. Wouldn't surprise me if he was pulling the same money racket Manafort was. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

@McGarnagle @breckenridge 

I'm not sure Trump was pulling exactly the same tricks, but would anybody be surprised if some highly questionable stuff were found?

I doubt it.

breckenridge
breckenridge

 they turned into RINOs with their votes and their threats to stop the repeal of Obamacare.  Their names were prominent along with McCain, Mulkowski and Collins when the legislation was having difficulty. 

And healthcare, as far as I"m concerned, is the biggest Trump failure to date.


He did a bit of cheer leading from the sidelines. That's it.  When the Senate republicans reached an impasse he should have called McConnell, McCain, Collins, Heller, Murkowski, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to a meeting. He should have led an effort to bridge the divide between the two camps and find a workable solution, if possible.  But no, he did no such thing.  Instead his true self came out, a back-stabbing little punk who took to Twitter and trashed those opposed to the legislation.

Mr. Big Shot Deal Maker.  Yeah right. What a load of garbage.