|CHERISS MAY / NURPHOTO-GETTY|
Although President Trump and his sycophancy have continued to yammer No Collusion, No Collusion! as the bodies pile up, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has revealed a thoroughly consensual and deeply incestuous relationship between Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over the last 20 months. But with 37 perps down, where does he go from here? And is there any chance he'll nab The Big Guy himself?
Some history is helpful in trying to figure that out.
First, prosecutors revealed how campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos eagerly pursued a tip by a Russian cutout that the Kremlin had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails." This was months before they were leaked to the public and began to exert a subtle but ultimately fatal drag on the Clinton campaign.
Then former national security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to investigators concerning his contacts with Russian officials during the presidential transition. The contacts were part of a concerted effort to suck up to Vladimir Putin in the wake on new Obama administration-imposed sanctions.
Then the indictment of 10 Russian nationals and three business entities for the voter influence operation they orchestrated from the notorious Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg. The troll farm was a hub for a sophisticated operation designed to reach millions of Americans through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google.
Then the indictment of 12 officers assigned to the GRU, a powerful and secretive military operation, for hacking and leaking emails from the Clinton campaign and Democratic organizations. The Moscow hub operated with lethal efficiency through the summer and fall of 2016, often surreptitiously using computer infrastructure within the U.S.
Then Michael Cohen coped a plea acknowledging that the Trump Organization pursued a Moscow hotel deal throughout the campaign and that he lied about that to Congress. This is not to be confused with his separate plea regarding hush money payments approved by Trump made to two of his squeezes as the election approached.
And on Friday, Mueller dove deep inside the campaign itself with the arrest of longest-serving Trump adviser Roger Stone, who acted as a backchannel between the campaign and WikiLeaks. The corroborating indictment provided a tantalizing hint that candidate Trump himself may have been calling the shots.
Neither the Stone indictment nor any of the 36 others contain the word collusion or its legal equivalents, but they don't by design. And don't have to because Mueller has been well ahead of the curve in knowing the lay of the Russia scandal forest, determining which trees were important and working from the smaller outlying trees toward the big trees at the center.
Whether that collusion adds up to a criminal conspiracy is another matter. This is an enormous scandal no matter how you look at it, and with every passing turn of the screw and bleated defense, it becomes even more obvious that Trump has a lot to hide as his obeisance to Putin and Russia continues. Witness the lifting of sanction on Sunday against Oleg Deripaska's companies.
In any event, with Stone's indictment, we're in big tree territory.
That may mean but does not necessarily guarantee forthcoming indictments against two big trees of note -- Trump's son Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner -- as well as some smaller trees, including Stone associates and clown car co-pilots Jerome Corsi and Randy Credico.
And possibly nailing the tallest tree of all -- The Big Guy himself.
Any incriminating evidence pertaining to Trump and collusion -- as opposed to obstruction of justice, emoluments violations and his other sins of commission -- almost certainly would be in the form of incriminating evidence cited in the final report that Mueller is expected to submit to the Department of Justice per the independent counsel regulation under which he has labored.
Meanwhile, those newly-empowered House Democrats will be revving up the subpoena machine and going after Trump on several fronts, including laying the groundwork for impeachment.
Or so we hope.
The Stone indictment was, in a sense, a search warrant. As the dirty trickster himself was being shackled in his South Florida home, other FBI agents were carting off computer hard drives and other evidence from Stone’s apartment in Harlem. In the indictment, Mueller quotes a request from Stone to "talk on a secure line — got WhatsApp?" Which means that agents may have been looking for leads on encrypted conversations.
Then there is this possibility: Despite his overweaning hubris and post-arrest vow to never turn on Trump, Stone does just that. A coward at heart, he already was hinting as much barely 48 hours after his arrest.
Elsewhere, the Stone indictment reads "[A] senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign." (Emphasis mine.) The indictment in other respects is anything but vague, and the vagueness of this passage -- typical for Mueller when he hasn't wanted to show his hand -- hints at Trump's involvement.
Who but Trump himself would have the authority to direct a senior official?
If Stone knows that it was Trump, can credibly testify (always an issue for a serial prevaricator) that he was further told by a campaign official that Trump was calling the shots and seized WhatsApp evidence corroborates that, then it's over bar the shouting.Hot on the heels of the Stone indictment, a New York Times analysis found that at least 17 campaign officials and advisers had over 100 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, and at least 10 other associates were told about the interactions, from late 2015 through to Trump's inauguration. Stone alone had 18 contacts.
If that's not collusion, I'll eat Credico's therapy dog.
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and related developments.