I get the feeling the Robert Mueller investigation is reaching a critical stage.
Last week there was news that Rick Gates, former business partner of George Papadopoulos had changed tack and was cooperating fully with the Mueller investigation. From Salon:
Rick Gates, a former top aide to Donald Trump, looks close to making a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators.
The former deputy to Paul Manafort, campaign manager for Trump, is in the process of finalizing the plea deal after roughly one month of negotiations, according to CNN. Once Gates has an official plea deal, he will be the third person known to be cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Gates’ plea deal could also increase pressure on Manafort, who also used to be Gates’ business partner. Like Gates, Manafort pleaded not guilty on October 30 for alleged financial crimes that did not involve his work on the Trump campaign.
A crucial component in working out any plea deal is the value of what a defendant can offer investigators. Although it’s unclear how Gates could help the Mueller investigation in proving collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the contents of his plea deal will depend on whether he says anything of value — and, more importantly, whether what he says can be verified by Mueller’s investigators.
One important step has already been taken in the Gates case: He has had his so-called “Queen for a Day” interview, wherein a defendant answers all questions from a prosecutors’ team.
Then there was news that Steve Bannon was also spending large amounts of time with Mueller. From CNN:
Bannon met with Robert Mueller for about 20 hours, according to the NBC report, which cited two sources familiar with the proceedings.
Bannon, who also ran Trump’s campaign during the final stretch of the 2016 presidential race, left the White House in August. He returned to his position heading up the right-wing online news outlet Breitbart afterward, but he departed the organization after his quotes in an explosive tell-all book went public earlier this year.
And then a couple of days ago news broke of Mueller laying an indictment against thirteen Russians and three Russian corporations essentially alleging wide spread illegal involvement in the 2016 American Election. From the Guardian:
Thirteen Russians have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced on Friday.
Mueller’s office said 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including the notorious state-backed “troll farm” the Internet Research Agency, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington DC.
A 37-page indictment alleged that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent.
Mueller alleged that Russian operatives “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”, but the indictment did not address the question of whether anyone else in Trump’s team had knowingly colluded.
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said at a press conference in Washington: “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge.” Rosenstein added that the charges did not mean the Russian activity had an effect on the outcome of the election.
Trump and the White House seized on Rosenstein’s remarks to falsely claim that the indictment proved there had been no collusion and that the election result had definitely not been impacted.
The details of the allegations are interesting. Again from the Guardian:
The charges state that from as far back as 2014, the defendants conspired together to defraud the US by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of government” through interference with the American political and electoral processes.
One defendant, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is accused of using companies he controlled – including Concord Management and Consulting, and Concord Catering – to finance the operations against the US. The operation at one stage had a monthly budget of $1.25m, according to Mueller, which paid for operatives’ salaries and bonuses.
Events were organised by Russians posing as Trump supporters and as groups opposed to Trump such as Black Lives Matter, according to prosecutors. One advertisement shortly before the election promoted the Green party candidate Jill Stein, who is blamed by some Clinton backers for splitting the anti-Trump vote.
In August 2016, Russian operatives communicated with Trump campaign staff in Florida through their “@donaldtrump.com” email addresses to coordinate a series of pro-Trump rallies in the state, according to Mueller, and then bought advertisements on social media to promote the events.
At one rally in West Palm Beach, a Russian operative is even alleged to have paid Americans to build a cage on a flatbed truck and to have an actor posing as Clinton in a prison uniform stand inside.
The Russians are also accused of working to suppress turnout among ethnic minority voters. They allegedly created an Instagram account posing as “Woke Blacks” and railed against the notion that African Americans should choose Clinton as “the lesser of two devils” against Trump.
In early November 2016, according to the indictment, the Russian operatives used bogus “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to claim that “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today.”
Following Trump’s victory, the Russian operation promoted allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic party, according to Mueller’s team. Around that time, Trump repeatedly claimed without evidence that he would have won the popular vote if not for large-scale voter fraud.
It did not take long for Trump to change his view from there was no collusion to there was collusion but it was Hillary’s and the Democrat’s fault.
General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
And he even managed to blame the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the election for the recent Florida School shooting. Has he no shame?
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Fox News also managed to rail between claims there was nothing to worry about to actually conceding that Russian interference with American politics had occurred.
Indictment reveals Russians also organized anti-Trump rallies after election https://t.co/0TqCDPsd4F
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 17, 2018
Mueller’s questioning of Trump must be close. Interesting times …