The Mueller Indictment Is Only The Tip Of The Iceberg: Beware What Lies Beneath
It was a classic Trump Moment. The beleaguered president, relieved that the indictment by Robert Mueller of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for election interference unsealed on Friday had not included any connections to his campaign, crowed on Twitter that he had again been exonerated. But Trump’s elation soon turned to fury as he realized that few people were buying that argument because they understood that the special counsel still had he and his campaign in his sights, and there ensued a profanity-laced monsoon of new tweets in which he, among other things, falsely and obscenely blamed the Parkland, Florida school massacre on the FBI because “they are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion.”
The awful implication of Trump’s non sequitur is that if the feds lay off investigating him, then more children won’t die, which is yet another new low for the bottom-feeding cretin who happens to be president of the United States.
But the outburst also was remarkable for what Trump did not say: That the by now copiously-documented efforts of a foreign power to undermine American democracy would not be tolerated. But then never is heard a discouraging word about Vlad the Impaler from the White House and, among other indications that Trump refuses to get serious about Russia, his administration has yet to act on additional sanctions authorized by Congress in July.
Indeed, the indictments are only the tip of the scandal iceberg and that lying beneath the use of social media through pseudonymous Russian conspirators working at the grassroots level to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump laid out in extraordinary detail in the new indictment are other shoes that have not yet dropped concerning:
* A massive Russian email hacking and electronic records theft operation.
* Multiple efforts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Trump campaign.
* Repeated efforts by Trump to thwart the investigation by obstructing justice.
Predicting where Mueller may go next is a fool’s errand. Focused as the news media was on other tentacles of Russia’s interference and Trump’s blanket description of the scandal as a “hoax,” Mueller’s Friday indictment came as a surprise.
It should not have because it was a timely and brilliant rebuttal to the arguments of Trump and his congressional sycophancy, including Devin Nunes, Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham, that the special counsel’s investigation is politically motivated.
As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took pains to stress when he met with reporters shortly after the indictment was made public, while “there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity . . . [the] special counsel’s investigation is ongoing.”
Indeed, within hours it was revealed that Mueller had flipped deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates, who had pleaded not guilty to money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying violations in October but now will plead guilty to fraud-related charges and testify against business associate and one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort.
That means that three of the four Americans indicted by Mueller are now cooperating, and it can be assumed that the level of detail Mueller and his investigators have of the grassroots effort in battleground states is matched by what they know of interactions between Russians and the campaign.
While the Russians hid behind fake names in carrying out their grassroots work, they were considerably more transparent — and in fact often explicit — in direct encounters with the Trump campaign, including individuals like Manafort, who attended the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, along with Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr. and son-out-law Jared Kushner, where they were promised “dirt” on Clinton from the Kremlin.
In other words, the Friday indictment only scratched the surface of a widespread conspiracy that certainly involved campaign officials if not Trump itself.
Note also that while there is no crime called collusion, working with others toward an unlawful end is known as conspiracy in criminal law. Conspiracies to defraud the government under 18 U.S.C. § 371 include those that impair, obstruct or impede lawful government functions such as carrying out a federal election. That is precisely the statute Mueller used in charging the 13 Russians and three Russian companies and would apply to American co-conspirators.
Mueller is indeed far from finishing up. In fact, he may only be getting started.