PAPADOPOULOS (THIRD FROM LEFT) AT CAMPAIGN MEETING WITH TRUMP
The big questions the day after the Russia scandal dam broke with double-barreled court filings are where Robert "Maximum Bob" Mueller goes from here, and is Donald Trump in trouble?
The answer to the second question is that Trump is in big trouble because of the answer to the first question: Flipping George Papadopoulos was right out of the white collar crime playbook. You flip the bit players first and move up the chain of command to the big guys who can land the big fish. And woe be to others who already have made false statements, as Papadopoulos did, in interviews with Mueller's team.
The other big stories behind Papadopoulos's stunningly candid guilty plea to lying to the FBI about efforts to broker meetings between Russian officials and the campaign are that there were obvious efforts to cover up the collusion and that collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign began months before Papadopoulos was approached in April 2016, continued through to Election Day, and beyond.
Oh, and was Georgie Boy fitted with a wire after his secret July 2017 arrest?
Who else can Mueller flip?
For openers, probably Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, who was merely a distraction in the Monday morning festivities. I believe they were the key Russia-campaign go-betweens. And considering that money laundering alone carries a 20-year sentence, really don't want to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Trump, the ultimate control freak, challenged Mueller to not cross the line to where he was snooping around in his family members' underwear. Expect the special prosecutor to blow right past that line in ensnaring Donald Jr., Ivanka and Jared in the coming weeks. Then things will get really interesting because at the end of the day there is nothing that the control freak can do.
There is some collateral Democratic damage, as well. Only hours after the indictments, leading Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta announced that he was leaving his firm after its role in a Ukrainian lobbying campaign was described in Mueller's court filings.
But those filings went to the heart of what Trump is all about: A career criminal who always has surrounded himself with sleazy characters for whom doing deals with oligarchs, mobsters and other bad actors is de rigueur, and laundering money from ill-gotten gains and committing tax fraud come as naturally as lying to federal agents.
The president still doesn't really understand what hit him on Monday morning. But do not rule out him firing Mueller and plunging the U.S. into a constitutional crisis.