Maximum Bob Mueller has a secret, and it must bring a smile to his poker face in private moments: Being special prosecutor is pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel.
This is because the bottom-feeding friends, campaign associates and family members who swim in Donald Trump’s swamp are easy pickings. They are reprobates for whom laws are to be broken, no lie is too outrageous and the bottom feeders who emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union are matches made in shyster heaven for them.
Trump has accomplished damned little, but he has breathed new life into the concept of irony.
Trump may have finally realized that he is unable to manipulate what the Justice Department and FBI do, although not without having tried, as did Richard Nixon en route to impeachment. In fact, Nixon’s efforts to do what Trump has attempted were the fifth specification in the Articles of Impeachment that led to his resignation.
Building on that irony, Trump tweeted at length prior to embarking on his saber-rattling tour of the Far East about the criminal justice system being “a joke” and “a laughingstock” in berating officials for not obeying him and investigating his political opponents.
Well, Mr. Trump, the system does work, just like it eventually did with Tricky Dick, and Maximum Bob is here to show you just how effective it can be.
Trump might recall in his more lucid moments that Maximum Bob is on the scene because he tried to twist that system to his own ends by leaning on FBI Director James Comey to knock off his investigation into Russian election interference and his campaign’s collusion with Moscow and, when he didn’t get the message, he sacked him.
Many criminal cases hang by a thread, but the perps swimming in Trump’s swamp have, for the most part, proven track records as thoroughly bad actors. Or are rubes who were in way over their heads. You can put George Popadopoulos and Donald Trump Jr. in the latter category.
Maximum Bob’s opening fusillade of indictments — and the appearance of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates at the federal courthouse in Washington and Papadopoulos’s surprise guilty plea — took his investigation from the theoretical to the concrete. It undermined in one fell swoop Trump’s contention that the entire scandal is a “hoax” and showed that the special prosecutor is keenly interested in the inner workings of the Trump campaign, as well as business contacts between Russians and Trump, his associates and family members.
“The release of both sets of charges on the same day was a shrewd strategic move by Mueller,” says Randall Eliason, a law prof and expert in white-collar crime. “Manafort, who apparently has refused to cooperate, ends up indicted and potentially facing a decade or more in prison. Papadopoulos, who chose to cooperate and plead guilty, faces a single, relatively minor felony charge and may avoid jail altogether. The message to future witnesses is clear: be like George, not like Paul.”
Intriguingly, Papadolpoulos is referred to as a “proactive cooperator” in his plea agreement, which may mean he wore a wire and recorded phone calls for Mueller.
Maximum Bob is carrying out his investigation in stages. Not as if he was taking on an organized crime organization, as some pundits have noted, but because he is doing just that as he drills into the extraordinary number of Russian political and business connections to Trump’s campaign.
And recall that we still don’t know Trump’s own direct financial ties because he won’t disclose his tax returns, although I suspect that Maximum Bob does because he has been working with the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division.
Expect a slew of additional indictments before the dust settles.
They almost certainly will include the president’s eldest son and son-in-law in addition to Carter Page, Roger Stone and Felix Sater, among other perps thrashing around in Maximum Bob’s barrel. Then there is short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn, who may already be cooperating with the special counsel, possibly to try to spare prosecution of his son, Michael Jr. There also is an outside chance that two Trump Cabinet officials could come under the hammer — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Trump built his fortune on lies, and those lies could undo him. But there’s a problem, and it’s a yuge one.
All those indictments present and future are part of a criminal process, specifically for the violations of federal law that Maximum Bob and his legal sharpshooters have identified, including the money laundering, failure to report foreign bank accounts and acting as unregistered foreign agents that tripped up Manafort and Gates, and lying to the FBI, which brought down Papadopoulos.
Impeachment is a political process, and while Maximum Bob can and almost certainly will inform Congress that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, including obstruction of justice and trying to use the Justice Department and FBI to go after his enemies, Congress as it is currently constituted is unlikely to do anything.
Nevertheless, have the fruits of Maximum Bob’s labors increased the chances of the Trump presidency collapsing into the swamp?
“It’s like hitting a boulder with a hammer 1,000 times and it doesn’t break,” said John Sipher, highly regarded national security analyst and former CIA spy. “Then you hit it the 1,001st time and it smashes to pieces. It’s hard to predict.”
Copyright 2017 The Moderate Voice