It’s not “March Madness” yet, but if Rick Gates flips, we’ll be down to the “Final Four.”

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MSNBC / YouTube Lawrence Robert Mueller Likely Has A...
MSNBC / YouTube

Well, this is getting interesting. Word had been in the wind for a couple of weeks that something might be up with Rick Gates, with all the upheaval on his legal team. Apparently there’s nothing like a half empty legal defenses fundraiser and a dressing down from your judge for violating his gag order to make you reconsider spending a couple of million bucks going to a trial you might well lose.

If Rick Gates actually does turn turtle for Robert Mueller, then we really are down to four finalists for the “Crossbar Hilton Cup.” The contestants would be DonaldTrump, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and of course Paul Manafort. But Rick Gates is dangerous to all four for one simple reason.

The Trump campaign can be broken down into three distinct categories, the Lewandowski part, the Manafort part, and the Bannon part. To my knowledge, only three major, non family players survived all three parts. Hope “Terrible taste in men” Hicks, Jeff “Down with voting rights” Sessions, and Michael “Call me Benedict: Flynn. But Rick Gates is a close second. He came in right at the start of the Manafort reign, and stayed all the way through the inauguration and into Trump’s first term. Trump repeatedly singled him out for praise, and along with Kushner, he had a major role in running the day to day logistics of the campaign. He probably knows where more bodies are buried than anybody else Mueller has to date.

If Rick Gates turns canary for Mueller, then Paul Manafort is in the hurt locker, for two reasons. First, Gdoeates was Manafort’s long time business partner and confidant, he can roll Manafort up in a carpet for Mueller on things like money laundering and willful FARA violations. He would almost certainly be in the know about any contortions Manafort was putting the Trump campaign through for his Ukrainian overlords. Second, Robert Mueller has a problem, too many stoolies, not enough Godfathers. This has gone on for too long, and attracted too much interest, nobody, especially the public will be satisfied with Gates, Flynn, and Papadopoulos getting suspended sentences and community service without somebody higher up getting a long term membership at Club Fed out of the deal. Mueller is going to need a fall guy, and Manafort is tailor made.

This puts Manafort in an untenable position. If Gates rolls on him, going to trial becomes almost suicidal, Gates will bury him. And if Manafort doesn’t have anything concrete on the top three to offer Mueller than Gates already has, Mueller has no incentive to cut a deal with Manafort, and he can started getting fitted for Pierre Cardin orange jumpsuits. But if he does have something concrete he can use in conjunction with Gates, Flynn’s, and Papadopoulos Christmas goodies, then the Trump White House is on death row.

If the west wing is breached, Jared Kushner is in mortal danger, with Donnie Jr not far behind him. Paul Manafort was a “manager,” and his major responsibilities were running the convention, and whipping delegates to prevent a messy floor fight for the nomination. Rick Gates is a nuts and bolts guy, he would have worked closely with Kushner almost daily, and likely would have had serious interaction with other major players like Cambridge Analytica, as well as Michael Flynn. I don’t see Don Jr as being in quite the same jeopardy. I’m sorry, but to me, Donnie Redux is a fuck up, pure and simple. Like his old man, he is both arrogant and impulsive, and he lacks the intellect or discipline to think things through before acting impulsively. The Trump tower meeting is a perfect example. But somehow I don’t see either Kushner or Gates giving him a full seat at the table, and letting him direct critical matters. Strangely enough, Trump himself could be protected by his own rampant stupidity. Trump is a peacock figurehead, his only interests were applause and self enrichment. Being the ultimate delegater, I find it highly likely that Trump had almost no interest in what was going on, just as long as crowds were cheering him every time he stuck his head out of his hole. Trying to prove criminal intent on someone who had neither direct knowledge of, nor actual interest in what was going on could be difficult.

Oddly enough, putting Rick Gates into the squealer stable could conceivably put Michael Flynn back on the hot seat again. For a long time, Flynn was Mueller’s prize possession, and if he thought that he was in fact buying Gates and Manafort a one way ticket to a Siberian gulag, Flynn may have glossed over or fudged his own culpability in some things. If Gates can prove he misled investigators, Flynn may find his plea deal in jeopardy. And with Gates as his new BFF, Mueller may well let Flynn go down, and hard , if he no longer needs his corroboration. Flynn has already proved his arrogance in lying about his contact with Russians, I wouldn’t put it past him to have tried to fudge on events with Mueller if he thought there was no way for the FBI to back check him.

The Machiavellian plot twists alone here are worth the price of admission. Steve Bannon spends 20 hours blabbering to the FBI, but won’t answer a question from the House Intel committee with more than a “no.” A panelist on MSNBC yesterday had a perfectly logical reason for this. The House Intel committee is nothing more than an information conduit back to Trump. Right now, Trump thinks Bannon is being a stand up guy, protecting him. But, if Bannon is trying to stick a shiv in the back of Jared Kushner, the last thing he wants is a sniveling little pissant like Devin Nunes scurrying back to Glorious Bleater and spoiling the surprise.

So, this figures to be a long weekend for political junkies while we wait to see if Monday brings the announcement of a Rick Gates guilty plea deal in return for his cooperation with the investigation. And if that happens, the shit is going to start to hit the fan hot and heavy. Good times..

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