I’ve generally been pretty dismissive of the “A noun, a verb, and Vladimir Putin,” wing of the Democratic Party.
I’ve always observed that at worst, what we have is a violation of campaign finance laws, where, if the Russians explicitly coordinated with the Trump campaign, it was an illegal in-kind donation.
That’s a lot of “ifs”, and even if true, the penalties are minimal.
The real jeopardy only occurs if members of the Trump campaign engaged in obstruction of justice in an attempt to cover this up.
After all, it was obstruction of justice that took Nixon down.
I’m still not sure if there is any “There” there, but things is getting profoundly interesting:
CNN and the New York Times this evening published dueling scoops on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
As Jim Comey might put it: Lordy, there appear to be tapes.
First, CNN reported that U.S. government investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. According to CNN, the court that provides judicial oversight for the administration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorized an FBI investigation into Manafort in 2014 focused on “work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party.” Manafort’s firm, among notable others, had failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for work with the pro-Russian Ukrainian regime. This first investigation was reportedly halted in 2016 by Justice Department prosecutors because of lack of evidence, but a second warrant was later issued in service of the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence of the election and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
CNN reported that interest in Manafort was “reignited” because of “intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” The FBI also conducted physical searches: one of a storage facility belonging to Manafort and a more widely reported search of his Alexandria home in late July. Manafort was not under surveillance when he became chairman of Trump’s campaign, CNN sources suggested, because of the gap between the two warrants.
Shortly after CNN’s story broke, the New York Times published its own scoop regarding Manafort. The story is largely a scene piece, but includes a number of highly significant facts. The Times catalogs what it describes as “aggressive tactics” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has employed in his investigations of Trump associates, specifically Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. First, the Times reveals that after the July raid on Manafort’s residence, Mueller’s prosecutors warned Manafort that he would be indicted. The story also reports that Mueller’s team has subpoenaed several of Manafort’s associates, including Jason Maloni, a former Manafort spokesman; the heads of Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group; and one of Manafort’s former lawyers (with Mueller’s team claiming an exception to attorney-client privilege). While White House officials have been given the opportunity to appear for “voluntary interviews” instead of before grand juries, Manafort’s associates have been subpoenaed, marking a less deferential approach to the Manafort investigation. The Times suggests that Mueller, leaving no rock unturned, is investigating Manafort for “possible violations of tax laws, money-laundering prohibitions and requirements to disclose foreign lobbying.”
I’m not sure where this is going, but it is getting interesting.