Welcome to Mueller time. The indictments have begun. One target—Paul Manafort—is at the top of everyone’s Most Wanted list. The others are lower-level munchkins by the names of Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. The latter has already pled guilty; Gates and Manafort have lodged not guilty pleas.
(Fun fact: in the Watergate case, there were almost fifty separate persons found guilty. The first Trump infrastructure project might have to be a new federal prison.)
The president has reacted predictably to Manafort’s troubles, claiming any possible misdeeds his former campaign manager might have committed transpired in ancient times. (It’s telling that the president has so far not bothered to deny Manafort’s bad conduct—and it’s also not true, as the president’s Twitter feed insisted, that the Mueller indictment doesn’t cover Manafort’s tour atop the Trump campaign; it includes shady doings from 2006 through 2017.)
In either event, the president’s implied defense is, I hired a criminal to manage my presidential campaign, but his crimes pre-dated our arrangement. Nothing to see here, MAGA nation!
Trump’s further take is that the indictment fails to establish collusion with Russia. Not quite, as we will see in a moment. In the case of Manafort, the point is not to establish collusion, but to jack up one of the prime colluders and get him to roll on others. To escape a more severe sentence, Papadopoulos is reported to have been cooperating with authorities over the past three months.
To take things chronologically, the Papadopoulos story is here. This fellow was acknowledged by the Trump campaign as an associated foreign policy adviser (though in another transparently bogus claim, team Trump has sought to nonsensically downgrade his campaign job title to “volunteer”). He was also in touch with a Russian national who was dangling Hillary’s stolen emails.
So there’s your collusion, at least at a low level. Papadopoulos then lied to the FBI about his dealings, which is a federal felony, and was busted in July. He communicated with more senior campaign officials about the prospect of Moscow political gold. Those officials have yet to be named, but we may see them in the next perp-walk.
Manafort and his understudy Gates are accused of a panoply of crimes, including money laundering, failing to register as foreign agents, tax evasion, and myriad false representations to the authorities. It is true these offenses are not linked to the Trump campaign, but they are linked to the Russian state, in the person of one Viktor Yanukovych.
Who might that be? Yanukovych is a Ukrainian politician and was Vladimir Putin’s chosen ruler of Ukraine. He was actually the legally elected president. In my view, U.S. intelligence interests conspired successfully to depose him from office. This outcome would represent, it must be acknowledged, a magnified Ukrainian version of what anti-Trump forces have accused Russia of doing to the American electoral system. There’s good cause, in other words, for the intelligent anti-imperialist to savor the prospect that American citizens caught subverting foreign policies we actually oppose are now facing the dock. It’s a funny old world.
It is amusing to read potted attacks on Yanukovych in mainstream Western media as “corrupt” and otherwise objectionable, compared to the scoundrels we supported, if not imposed on poor Ukraine, like the gentleman viewable in this montage, top center:
He seems nice, doesn’t he? This man, one Oleh Tyahnybok, leads a fascist party in Ukraine and was embraced as BFF by Obama State Department honcho Victoria Nuland. You know the other fellow.
We can regret that, in the realm of U.S. foreign policy, there are no good guys at the elite level. On the Democrats’ side you have, well, the kind of shit you see in the pictures. On the other, you have our ignorant, lazy, impulsive, morally cretinous president, who may yet involve us in new catastrophes in Asia, the Mideast, or Latin America.
At least the bad actors on the D-side promise a reduced risk of nuclear conflagration. (It’s funny, or rather unspeakably sad, the things that we’re forced to feel grateful for.) On the domestic policy front, however, there should be no ambiguity that we’re much worse off in present circumstances than under Hillary Clinton’s neoliberalism.
In all events, Manafort’s Russian connection is the linchpin of the wide assortment of felonies with which he is charged. Pimping—er, excuse me, lobbying for—Putin’s man required him to register as a foreign agent, which he failed to do. Earnings from this work were allegedly concealed from the IRS, through foreign accounts and money laundering.
What remains to be established in any detail is how Manafort superintended contacts between Trump’s campaign and the Russian state. If I had to bet, I’d say an indictment of Trump supporter Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, will bookend Manafort’s. Both are party to similar, prolific meddling in U.S. foreign policy, however ill-advised that policy may prove to be in the cold light of history. From these two anchors, any number of administration heavies could be entangled, of course including the principal himself.
One sidelight of these developments is the usual unsavory playing out of sectarian backbiting on Twitter. There we have the curious case of self-proclaimed Bernie peeps and those further left echoing Fox News takes. It should be obvious that the political objective of pro-Trump forces, here and wherever they may be in Eurasia, is to divide Democrats—which is to say, Sanders people from Clinton/Obama people.
No serious or honest person of the left can resist satisfaction as these indictments of Trump cronies unfold. Those who grouse effectively fail to distinguish themselves from Russia-bots or domestic U.S. right-wing agent provocateurs. They ought to petition Vladimir for back pay.
And what will these comrades do when Trump fires Mueller and anybody else who seeks to ferret out his misdeeds? Start yammering about Hillary and uranium? Let’s hope that the sheer volume of indictments to come will rule out such a gruesome epilogue on the left.