U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s latest indictment carries weight beyond simply adding new serious charges. For the first time, the new indictment links senior officials on President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to Russian intelligence in a criminal matter.
As expected, Mueller added an indictment against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for witness-tampering, on top of charges that Manafort did illegal lobbying work for Ukraine and laundered millions of dollars in proceeds.
The indictment also alleged that a “fixer,” described in the affidavit as a former Russian spy, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped Manafort obstruct justice. Bloomberg summarizes the meaning of that addition:
This is the first indictment we have where an American and a Russian are charged together,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at the Thompson Coburn LLP law firm in Chicago.
“This is an alleged Russian spy committing crimes with the former campaign chairman for Trump,” Mariotti said. “When people first thought of the Mueller investigation, this is what people thought would result from it.”
I wrote a few days ago of a David Corn article from Mother Jones, one that I recommend to all. Corn writes that Trump is getting away with the biggest presidential scandal in all of history, precisely because we’ve become so dull to developments such as the one above that we’re failing to see the forest through all the trees. The “drip drip drip” nature helps Trump because he can answer everything with the same tired (but successful) counter: Witch hunt.
Then the show moved on. We had spent 15 or so minutes on these important developments, delving into the details—but without referring to the essence of the story. And it hit me: Though it’s clear Trump’s presidency has been hobbled by the Russia scandal, the manner in which this matter plays out in the media has helped Trump.
Almost every day, Trump pushes out a simple (and dishonest) narrative via tweets and public remarks: The Russia investigation is a…well, you know, a witch hunt. Or a hoax. Or fake news. He blasts out the same exclamations daily: Witch hunt, hoax! Hoax, witch hunt! That’s his mantra.
So, let’s do this one differently. This is not a drip, drip. This is big. The United States Special Counsel (aka the stand-in FBI) just indicted the Trump campaign manager AND a Russian intelligence officer in a conspiracy.
That is a scandal, that is serious. That’s not a hoax. This is dead serious.
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