Medill DC, cropped / Flickr robert mueller...
Medill DC, cropped / Flickr

In 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Donald Trump’s campaign chair, his deputy campaign chair, his national security adviser, his personal attorney, and an adviser to his campaign. Additionally, Mueller indicted a Dutch lawyer who worked with Trump’s campaign chair, a Russian businessman who tampered with witnesses, a dozen Russian intelligence officers, 13 more Russian nationals, and three companies who were involved in setting up Russian propaganda efforts in the U.S., along with a California man who admitted to assisting the Russians.

And these are just the indictments we know about. It’s highly likely that there are several more names already attached to paperwork that remains under seal.

Thirty-five indictments sounds like quite a lot. Because it is. If Robert Mueller were to sit back at this point and simply prosecute the charges that have already been levied, it would make for quite a narrative: A story of how Russia spent years preparing to sabotage American democracy, selected Donald Trump as their instrument, and provided him with assistance in the form of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and a literal army of special intelligence operatives using propaganda and cyber warfare to directly target the most vulnerable points of America’s electoral system.

With all that already done, what’s left for Robert Mueller to do? In a word: Everything. Because, as jaw-dropping as the list of 2018 indictments may seem, every indication—every indication—is that every indictment seen so far is just the warm-up for what’s to come. Because the one common factor for all the non-Russian indictments that came in 2018 was that those indictments came as part of a deal. George Papadopoulos got a deal. Rick Gates got a deal. Michael Flynn got a deal. Michael Cohen got a deal. Even Paul Manafort got a deal, before he proved “too smart” to be truthful with the special counsel.

Some of them didn’t just get deals, they got spectacular deals. That includes Flynn, who traded his testimony for walking away from actions that genuinely open debate on the proper definition of treason. The measure of just how much Flynn is being allowed to put in the rear view can be seen in the reaction of a federal judge when Flynn had the audacity to grumble.

Considering all those charges, and all those deals, what could possibly be on Robert Mueller’s schedule for 2019? Plenty—including Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump.

2018 bowed out on fresh news that Michael Cohen may have visited Prague to meet with Russian operatives, as previously reported in the memos compiled by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. 2019 is starting with fresh information that Paul Manafort took his position on the Trump campaign under pressure to pay back millions he owed to his Russian masters. And all of that follows news that Trump’s efforts to pin his name on a Russian skyscraper did not end in 2015, as he had always insisted, but continued throughout the campaign, at least until Trump secured the nomination and possibly right up until the election.

As the new year begins, what we know about Robert Mueller’s investigation includes:

  • The “Moscow Project” was an ongoing effort by Trump to make a real estate deal in Russia. It was being negotiated by Trump, Cohen, and Felix Sater, and it directly involved Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. All of them have made false statements about the deal in public, and it seems all but certain that several, including Trump Jr., lied about the project in testimony before either the FBI or Congress.
  • Trump’s corruption doesn’t stop at the borders of the former Soviet Union, and it doesn’t seem that Mueller’s investigation is limited to those lines, either. Trump’s inaugural fund was a dumping ground for bribes that came not just from Russia, but from also Saudi Arabia and other nations with connections to both the Trump Organization and Jared Kushner. Mueller is on the trail of all of these, and of the Cohen-created companies used to launder funds.
  • The use of WikiLeaks to distribute Russian propaganda and stolen documents is a continuing focus of the special counsel, one that already involves Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort … at a minimum.
  • The Trump Tower meeting between Manafort, Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. and a bevy of Russian operatives remains a focus of Mueller’s investigation. Despite a year of lying about the purpose of the meeting, actions during the meeting, and actions after the meeting, it seems more and more certain that this brief gathering was a pivotal moment in planning how the Trump campaign and Russia would cooperate. And how Trump has handled news around this meeting is the clearest indicator that Mueller continues to lay the groundwork on obstruction.
  • Perhaps the biggest buried part of the investigation is the remainder of Trump’s long business association with Moscow. Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was granted limited immunity back in August, but so far nothing has emerged from his testimony. There will be testimony. More and more publications are coming forward with details on the story of how Trump was saved from bankruptcy by the Russian mob, which is a story we’ve been telling for some time.

Paul Manafort, who faced a much longer list of charges than Michael Flynn, was foolish enough to throw away a reduced sentence on the gamble that Donald Trump would reward him for passing along Mueller’s “secrets.” That deal seems intensely boneheaded based on the nature of Manafort’s charges, which included confessions to state-level crimes that should earn him a lifetime ticket to a public facility in whichever state manages to get its paperwork done first. But then, perhaps Manafort is banking on Trump not just handing him a pardon, but dismissing that pesky justice system altogether.

And frankly, that’s what it would take for Trump to make it through 2019 without having far more reason to scream about Robert Mueller than he has over the last year. So far, the special counsel’s office has notched up an incredible record of indictments and convictions on serious charges. And every last one of them has been a prelude to the real show.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.



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