Yes, politics again. Monday saw two indictments revealed in the investigation of Russian interference in the US 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort, once Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and Rick Gates, a business partner of Manafort’s and also a staffer in the Trump presidential campaign, were charged with “conspiracy against the US” and a laundry list of charges, mostly concerning money laundering.
It also saw the revelation that a third person, George Papadopoulos, had entered a guilty plea months ago to charges of lying to the FBI in its investigation of ties to Russia. That plea had been sealed and was revealed just after the names on the indictments were revealed.
Just about everything that might possibly be said about all this has been said elsewhere. A Twitter comment about timing of knowledge of the Russians having emails from Hillary Clinton in their possession had me looking things up in the Papadopoulos plea. That revealed that Papadopoulos, while he was on the Trump presidential campaign staff, had contact with known Russian agents and found out the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton and some thousands of her emails. The document says Papadopoulos learned that on April 26th, 2016. This is interesting in that it was three months later, on July 27th, 2016, when Donald Trump famously made his public call for Russia to release what it had or could find of “missing” Clinton emails. The notion that Trump simply “happened” to mention something of this sort and wasn’t making use of privileged knowledge passed on from the Russians themselves strains credulity at this point.
The fact that Papadopoulos has had months between his guilty plea and the public knowledge of that plea indicates that he likely has been cooperating with the investigation. The higher-up most likely to run afoul of information-gathering using Papadopoulos is our US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
Papadopoulos, of course, is done with a guilty plea, though at least one source noted that it is very likely that Papadopoulos was offered the opportunity to plead guilty on these charges in exchange for cooperation and not being tried on more serious charges. The items in the Manafort and Gates indictments don’t require anything but circumstantial evidence for a successful prosecution, which means as long as Mueller’s team has the documents they need, those two don’t have much hope of evading the charges. There is plenty of discussion of possible presidential pardons and how those may not be effective in limiting the utility of Manafort and Gates in going after others, since accepting a pardon may make it impossible for them to refuse to testify about those charges.
It looks like things are going to develop rapidly, either to a wider net following up on Monday’s developments, or to suppression of the investigation by the executive branch. I suppose starting a new foreign war is always a possibility.