Staff / The Daily Beast paul manafort illustration...
Staff / The Daily Beast

Now comes the fun part. Finally, the informational portion of the Trump-Russia investigation seems to have come to an end. Now, we get to the good stuff, watching people parade in and out of Mueller’s office, and possibly the grand jury room to spill the beans. And with the Trump White House leaking loke a colander, I doubt that we’ll lack for interesting tidbits to chew on while we wait for the great denouement. 

Already, even at this early stage in terms of the investigation, we can glean a sense of order from this plate of spaghetti dropped from a third story window. Let’s take a few minutes together to go over what we already know, and we can pretty logically extrapolate where we might be going from here.We’ve already picked a route from all of the streets on the map, now let’s hit the road.

First of all, this investigation is proceeding on a track pretty much parallel to the Watergate investigation timewise. People have said that the pace of the Mueller investigation is breathtaking, it took the Watergate investigators about 14 mon ths to come up with the first indictments, and Mueller has only been at this for about 6 months. True and false. While Mueller has only been hammering away at the mountain for six months now, the actual FBI investigation into Trump-Russia collusion began in July of 2016, that’s about 15 months to the first indictments.

What is quicker is the speed of the first guilty plea. George Papadopoulos is already toast. The big difference between this and Watergate is that most of the Nixon cohorts took their lumps without implicating Nixon or the others involved. Papadopoulos’ guilty plea was notable because it indicated that he had been cooperating with investigators. Not just since he copped his plea, but back to the time he was caught in the lie. This is critical because basically Papadopoulos became a mole, likely wired for sound, possibly with hidden cameras while he conversed with others in the Trump administration, implicating others with information to share, and giving the feds evidence to convict more people with perjury if they lie to questions Mueller already has taped evidence of.

Papadopoulos is a classic example of “little-fish-big-fish in action. He has already exposed both his direct supervisor Sam Clovis, as well as then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to jeopardy. And it’s going to stick. You can tell because Clovis is not even trying to refute Papadopoulos’ accusations, he’s just trying to rationalize it. And Lewandowski has had to make himself look like shit, by suddenly managing to recall who Papadopoulos was after initially emphatically stating that he didn’t know him from Adam.Funny how having his “memory refreshed” only led to the lame ass excuse that he wasn’t Papadopoulos’ mommy, he coldn’t tell him not to go to Russia. Maybe not, but he sure as hell could have fired him on the spot. Clovis and Lewandowski are both heading for a stint in the hurt locker in their upcoming interviews and possible grand jury testimony.

.Papadopoulos also put an even higher up Trump advisor in serious jeopardy. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions originally denied even having the vaguest idea of who George Papadopoulos was. Until that dman picture of them sitting practically side by side came out. The delicious thing about that was that it was actually The Inglorious Basterd himself who posted the picture to Instagram, boasting about the size and might of his foreign policy team. Now, while Sessions can’t exactly remember what topics came up, especially including Russia, he remembers clearly that he was vehemently opposed to communicating with Russia if it came up. Sessions is going to have a brutal turn in the tumbler with Mueller. His transparent lies to the Senate Judiciary committee are going to haunt him, as is the fact that he can’t just arbitrarily decide to invoke Executive Privilege by refusing to answer uncomfortable questions, like he did with the Senate committee. And again, any questions arising from events before Trump was inaugurated are not protected, either in interview or before the grand jury. Sessions has been slavishly loyal to Trump, but he’s getting a wee old to spend years referring to guys in blue uniforms and wearing electra-glide-in-blue sunglasses as “Sir” for a bunch of years. Watching Sessions twist in the wind is going to be interesting.

But, as I said in my previous article, all of this flipping and flopping only get you so far. Screw Papadopoulos, Clovis, and Lewandowski. For Gods sake, after all of this we want lobster, not fish sticks.But I think we’re aboutto get our first tail, and I think it’s likely to be Paul Manafort. Here’s why.

Cast your mind back a bit. During the summer, after Manafort belatedly registered as a foreign agent, Manafort disappeared from sight like Atlantis. The rumblings at the time were that it was highly likely that Manafort was either cooperating with Mueller to save his sleazy ass, or negotiating a deal to do so. The first crack in that tNot only does it open up the net level of Kushner, Trump Jr, and possibly Trump himself, itheory was the dawn, no-knock raid on his home by the FBI, The nail in that theoretical coffin was the deep and damning indictments against him. Manafort appears to have taken a calculated risk. He is going to hang tough, waiting at least until the eve of trial to try to cut a deal, if not take his chances at rrial, and only roll over if he doesn’t get an acquital, to lessen his time. But the sands may have shifted out from under Manafort’s feet.

And Michael Flynn is the foul wind that may be shifting those sands. Mueller can only cut so many deals. Right now, Manafort and Flynn are the two highest profile fish that Mueller has in his creel, and the only reason to flip them is to get a bigger fish. At this level, the only bigger fish figure to be Donnie redux, Jared Kushner, and The Orange Tufted Poodle himself. But logic says that Mueller should only need one of them to flip to have the desired effect. So, which one?

My money is on Flynn, for a variety of reasons. Most importantly is that Mueller has Flynn cold, but more importantly he may well have Flynn’s son cold too. If Flynn cuts a deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if he still ends up with stiff jail time, in return for his son getting a pass. Second, I think that Trump’s recent disavowals of his closeness to Flynn may have dropped some of the scales from Flynn’s eyes about the likelihood of a pardon. And another thing. Flynn is under investigation by the military for his unauthorized trips to Russia, as well as payments by both Russia and Turkey. Flynn is facing a military court martial, with the disgrace that would bring, a reduction of rank, and the loss of the lions share of his pension. A pardon is for federal crimes, but a court martial would not be a federal trial, it would be a military tribunal, and I’m not sure that a pardon would quash that. Plus, Flynn was with Trump a whole lot longer than Manafort was, and he was much more trusted than Manafort ever was. If anybody would have inside knowledge of wrongdoings by Kushner, Li’l Donnie, or Trump himself, it would be highly likely that Flynn would be better able to provide it than Manafort.

If Flynn has, or will turn, it really opens up the playing field. Not only does it take the investigation to the next level, exposing Trump Jr, Kushner and Trump himself, it also makes Lewandowski, Clovis and Hope Hick expendable. If Flynn has documentation or other corroborating evidence to bury the unholy triumvirate, flipping Papadopoulos will have had the desired result, putting two more scalps in Mueller’s belt, whie still putting the big fish in his sights through Flynn. That reporter put it perfectly the other day, this is beginning to resemble a classic mob roll up operation. Don’t touch that dial.

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