Russia investigation: Mueller’s mafia strategy
“Remember Russia?” said Michael Dobie in Newsday.com. While Hurricane Harvey and North Korea have grabbed the headlines, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has been “creeping closer to the White House.” First, we discovered Trump had pursued a Trump Tower project in Moscow during the presidential campaign—at a time when he was insisting via Twitter he had “no deals, no loans, no nothing” with Russia. Then, it was reported that Mueller had obtained Trump’s first letter explaining why he was firing FBI Director James Comey—a letter so angry that White House officials persuaded Trump not to send it. That letter may become part of an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump. Finally, we learned Mueller has teamed up with the IRS and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate millions of unreported, Russia-connected dollars paid to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. What this all means remains uncertain, but it’s clear that “Mueller is connecting the dots.”
The Mueller-Schneiderman alliance “should terrify Trump,” said Abigail Tracy in VanityFair.com. Mueller is following the “classic anti-mafia prosecution playbook,” targeting Trump associates for low-level crimes to try to flip them against their boss. When Trump recently pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, it was widely seen as a wink to Manafort and other associates to stay strong, and that he has their back. “Mueller, however, has a secret weapon.” The president’s pardon power doesn’t extend to state crimes. Thus, if New York’s attorney general brings state law charges against Manafort “or whichever crony du jour is looking guiltiest,” said Jay Willis in GQ.com, “the only thing Trump can do about it is tweet.”
The mainstream media is convinced of Trump’s Russia guilt, said Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. The one thing that’s missing? “Evidence.” Some of his aides might be prosecuted for offenses unrelated to the campaign, but in the end, Mueller will find nothing on the president himself. Trump’s “hard-core loyalists” may be in denial, said Eliza Newlin Carney in AmericanProspect.org, but a recent CBS poll found that 40 percent of Republicans now believe Trump’s campaign had improper contact with the Russian government. And 75 percent say “Trump should not try to stop Mueller’s investigation.” When there’s this much smoke, people want to know if there was a fire.