Speed Reads

The Manafort Indictment

Robert Mueller is moving fast and aiming wide, former prosecutors say

Everybody wants to know what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has up his sleeve now, after his indictments were unsealed against President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, on Monday. A guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser Trump now dismisses as "a young, low level volunteer named George," was also revealed. Former federal prosecutors are probably better at reading Mueller's tea leaves than most.

With the unsealed Papadopoulos plea deal, Mueller "knows he's sending messages to at least three or four other operatives and their lawyers that he's got somebody in his corner who could be damaging to their interests," Randall Samborn, a senior aide on a George W. Bush-era special counsel investigation, told Politico. Mueller is "moving quickly" and insulating himself, added Solomon Wisenberg, a prosecutor in Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation. "It makes it that much harder I think for somebody to try to either pardon someone like Manafort or get Mueller fired."

Preet Bharara, whom Trump fired as U.S. attorney covering Manhattan, told Politico that it's "hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously." That last part "should be of concern to some people," he added.

The fact that Papadopoulos has been cooperating with Mueller's investigation for months, since his secret arrest in July at Dulles airport, should make a lot of people in Trump's orbit nervous. "I'm sure there are a lot of phones ringing off the hook to folks' lawyers," said Julie Myers Wood, another Whitewater prosecutor. "They're rethinking any interaction with him in the last few months." Below, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a member of the Iran-Contra prosecution team, lays out the case that Papadolpoulos was wearing a wire. Peter Weber