Russia investigation: More connections
“The Trump administration is up to its neck in Russians,” said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. We now know that at least nine people in President Trump’s orbit had secretive contacts with Russians, during either the campaign or the presidential transition. Just this week, Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump, admitted to congressional investigators that he’d met with a senior Russian official in Moscow in July 2016, and that he’d emailed the Trump campaign that the Russians “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump.” The House Judiciary Committee plans to ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions why he “forgot” to mention he and Trump were both present at a campaign meeting at which Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos bragged about his contacts with the Kremlin, and proposed setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Why did so many Trump aides and family members conceal their meetings with a hostile foreign power that was actively interfering in our presidential election?
Papadopoulous “was a more prominent figure” than the White House admits, said Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp in NBCNews.com. When the ambitious young aide pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, Trump aides dismissed him as a “low-level volunteer” and a “coffee boy.” But Papadopoulos was still representing the campaign during the Republican National Convention and the inauguration, and he gave an interview to Russian media promising that Trump would “restore the trust” between the two countries.
The next domino to fall could be former national security adviser Mike Flynn, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. Mueller’s investigators are reportedly close to bringing charges against Flynn, who did not disclose more than $500,000 in payments from Russia and Turkey, and who may have falsely told the FBI he did not discuss lifting U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador. “A Flynn indictment would put the Mueller probe in the White House,” and if he ever agrees to cooperate with the investigation, it could pose a threat to Trump himself. “Mueller’s net may never fall squarely on the president,” said Molly Ball in Time, and it’s possible that Trump could pardon everyone who’s indicted or try to fire Mueller. But for now, “the gears of the legal system are turning,” and “all the president can do is watch it unfold—a helpless spectator, just like the rest of us.”
▪ 58% of Americans approve of how special counsel Robert Mueller is handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 49% think it’s “likely” that President Trump committed a crime in connection with the campaign, while 44% believe it’s unlikely. Washington Post/ABC News ■