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The larger Russia issue.

October 31, 2017

Well, if nothing else, the special counsel’s weekend tease provided a few opportunities for friendly games of chance over the weekend.

What was your bet?  Most people seemed to land on Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn or Jared Kushner.

A few chose Steve Bannon, but by and large, most of the beer money was on who the special counsel could squeeze the most effectively, and that seemed to favor Manafort, given the high profile raid on his home.

Ding, Ding, Ding… and the winning loser is….Paul Manafort, who collected a list of a dozen or so conspiracy and other charges.

Not colluding…conspiracy.

Remember, “colluding,” whatever that means today, is not a crime, so the persons charged had to be indicted for an actual crime. Just shaking a Russian diplomat’s hand won’t cut it.

For instance, failing to declare income from a foreign government is a crime.  So is failing to register as a representative of another nation.  So is money laundering.

By now you have already heard that Manafort’s charges are likely part of the “weak link” approach to investigation and prosecution. First they broke George Papadopulos, and that likely got them to Manafort.

Also, look for a dismissal or reduction of the charges against Manafort and/or Rick Gates that would signal that one or the other made  a deal.

The ultimate target of course, at least as the narrative goes now, is the President of the United States. Coincidentally, it’s a warning to the 62 million people who voted for him not to ever again presume to challenge the political ruling class.

What isn’t clear yet is how far up the chain SC Mueller can get, given that Manafort was fired as campaign manager by the Trump campaign after only 8-10 weeks.

That brings us to the meat of the issue.  Has the ensuing post-election chaos accomplished a mission for Putin’s Russia?

Given that Mueller reached back at least a dozen years for some of the Manafort charges, it seems pretty clear that the Special Counsel will go back as far as necessary to find a hook to hang charges on. Remember, Democrats have been clamoring to get Citizen Trump’s tax returns as far back as the 1980’s released.

If, and it is a huge if, the investigation is really about discovering whether and how effectively Russia is manipulating our political system, their desire to interfere could go clear back to the Nixon era or even as far back as the Cuban missile crisis.

One of the better indicators that the Special Counsel is acting in the national best interest will be whether the Clintons, the Podesta brothers and some of the other high profile DNC newsmakers like Wasserman-Schultz draw an equal amount and severity of scrutiny as do those on the Trump or even the Sanders side of the aisle.

Certainly the pre-campaign ties between Tony Podesta and Paul Manafort would indicate a reason to make the connection.

An interesting sidelight to all this is the constant refrain that goes “If Trump hadn’t fired Comey, none of this would be happening.”

Maybe it just comes from reading too many crime novels, but wouldn’t that be akin to blackmailing Trump?  Leave me alone or we will crush you?  Just asking.

The questions about Comey’s involvement in the election are still there. People still wonder, and rightly so, how he could have publicly laid out a nearly perfect case for malfeasance in office against Hillary Clinton, and then blithely declare that no prosecutor would file charges, based on the “lack of evidence of intent.”

Frankly, if the FBI wants to charge Trump, or more properly, give Democrats the reason they need to impeach him, they could  possibly succeed.  No one lives 70 years without doing something illegal, even if it’s nothing more egregious than littering.

If all this was just the typical Washington intrigue and smearing, we could chalk it up to research for another movie or TV series and forget it.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more important than that.

From → op-ed

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