It’s been a “tremendous” start to the week for the Trump administration. In that way where “tremendous” means Trump’s former campaign chairman and his associate were indicted for, among other things, “conspiracy against the United States.” Additionally it looks like George Papadopolous, a former campaign adviser, might have already been flipped.
It’s also been a quality start to the week for bloggers of the Russophile kind. In that way where “quality” means a veritable dream team of U.S. prosecutors is now looking closely at people who have ties to Eastern Europe and who now live lavish lifestyles in the United States.
In the first post linked above, we briefly outlined the ties Manafort and Gates have to Oleg Deripaska. Consider this “subtle” reminder from The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:
Once the full scope of Russia’s interference campaign in last year’s election was clear, Manafort naturally became a person of interest for the F.B.I. One lingering question is whether Manafort joined the Trump campaign as a way to satisfy any debts from his life working in Russian politics. He reportedly owes the oligarch Oleg Deripaska millions of dollars, and during the campaign, Manafort e-mailed his partner in Ukraine to find out if Deripaska wanted briefings about the American campaign. He suggested that his newfound influence with Trump could be used to reconcile with Deripaska. In another e-mail, reported by the Washington Post, Manafort wondered, “How do we use to get whole?”
Actually there are questions. Implicit in this is the possibility that Trump and his campaign were duped by savvy political operators into becoming a puppet government for The Kremlin. But it’s difficult to imagine that what was happening wasn’t abundantly clear to them by the time the election rolled around.
Back in 2014, Politico ran a hilarious (and revealing for anyone unfamiliar with the history here) story about Manafort being M.I.A. during his efforts to bolster Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. To wit:
On Monday, as Russian gunships menaced the Ukrainian fleet in the Black Sea, Manafort’s former business partner Roger Stone sent out an email to a small group of friends asking wryly: “Where is Paul Manafort?”
A multiple-choice list of options followed, including: “Was seen chauffeuring Yanukovych around Moscow,” and “Was seen loading gold bullion on an Army Transport plane from a remote airstrip outside Kiev and taking off seconds before a mob arrived at the site.” The final option was: “Is playing Golf in Palm Beach.”
That would of course be the same Roger Stone who was banned from Twitter over the weekend after a profanity-laced diatribe aimed at the mainstream media.
So this is where the wagons get circled. It’s time to go to the mattresses for Trump and his associates. Meanwhile, it’s time for the blogs, Breitbart, and Fox to implement a full-court press to try and deflect from this.
As we wrote earlier, Trump doesn’t really have any “good” options here. That Papadopolous news is potentially even worse than the Manafort indictment. Here’s what we said over the weekend with regard to the prospect of firing Mueller:
Firing Mueller is simply not a realistic option for Donald Trump. If he does that, the entire world will stop spinning. Tax reform, border wall, infrastructure, – all of it – would be dead. Democrats and probably the Republicans that Trump has pissed off would move heaven and Earth to try and have him removed from office.
Sure enough, Schumer is already out warning Trump to not even think about going down that road. “The President must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way,” Schumer said in emailed statement to Bloomberg, adding that “if he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues.”
So there you go. For now, we’ll leave you with another quote from Lizza:
Manafort, one of the most successful influence peddlers, a phrase he once used publicly to describe himself, in the history of Washington, pitched himself to Trump as an outsider. “I have avoided the political establishment in Washington since 2005,” he wrote to the candidate. The Times noted that Manafort explained to Trump that as “as a onetime lobbyist he had adeptly won over rich and powerful business and political leaders, many of them oligarchs or dictators, in Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines and Pakistan.” There was one aspect of the pitch that was out of character for Manafort: he told Trump that he didn’t want a salary.