Worst week ever: what it means for Trump’s future
It is now safe to stop talking about Russiagate-related “leaks.”
The big fissures started appearing Sunday, and as of thos morning dam has burst.
The flood is likely to sweep Donald J. Trump out of office.
The first crack came Sunday evening, when the New York Times revealed that Trump’s lawyers were practically at each other’s throats over how extensively they should cooperate with Special Counsel Rovert Mueller’s probe (NYT story here. It didn’t take a degree in law to infer that Mueller is very interested in early drafts of Trump’s “Comey firing” letter.
Then came two more breaches: the Monday NYT report that Paul Manafort had been told by agents raiding his Alexandria, VA apartment that Mueller intended to indict him (article here), and CNN’s report that federal investigators wiretapped Manafort under FISA court orders before and after the election (article here).
Tuesday, CNN reported that “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is reaching back more than a decade in its investigation of Paul Manafort” (link here), well beyond the statute of limitations for crimes with which Manafort could potentially be charged.
Last night, the whole damn dam began to disintegrate. WaPo reported,
Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.
“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.
The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
The notes appear to be written in deliberately vague terms, with Manafort and his longtime employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, never explicitly mentioning Deripaska by name. But investigators believe that key passages refer to Deripaska, who is referenced in some places by his initials, “OVD,” according to people familiar with the emails. One email uses “black caviar,” a Russian delicacy, in what investigators believe is a veiled reference to payments Manafort hoped to receive from former clients.
The article is lengthy, detailed, and contains several other bombshells:
The emails under review by investigators also show that Manafort waved off questions within the campaign about his international dealings, according to people familiar with the correspondence.
Manafort wrote in an April 2016 email to Trump press aide Hope Hicks that she should disregard a list of questions from The Post about his relationships with Deripaska and a Ukrainian businessman, according to people familiar with the email.
When another news organization asked questions in June, Manafort wrote Hicks that he never had any ties to the Russian government, according to people familiar with the email.
Hicks, now the White House communications director, declined to comment.
About an hour later, NYT revealed that Manafort is still lobbying for foreign interests:
[Manafort] is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.
The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.
In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.
And then, the dam burst when that crack caused by the Comey “firing letter” news gave way. Again, NYT has the story:
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director, according to White House officials.
Mr. Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved “great pressure” on him.
The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.
In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. …
One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.
Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.
Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.
Each successive week of the summer brought increasingly bad Russiagate news for Trump and his minions past and present. The news so far this week is more massively damaging to Trump than anything that preceded it since late June.
And it’s only Thursday morning!
At this point, we are seeing one of two things: a president about to panic and do something truly stupid like trying to fire Mueller – or a Misadministartion whose days are numbered.
Either way, it is clear that we are seeing the worst political scandal in American history – and most likely the opening of the final act of Trump’s nasty, brutish, and short so-called presidency.