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Every day, Trump’s plot becomes clearer



The only defense Trump and his cohorts have been able to offer concerning Mueller’s four indictments is that, while Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos and Gates may have broken the law for personal gain, Trump himself had nothing to do with their transgressions. They were out to make money or increase their power, and they fooled Trump, his surrogates say; surely, you can’t blame him for that.

Well, that’s not a bad defense. Nobody likes guilt-by-association. But we’ve always known that the real dirt on Trump (aside from the kinky stuff in the dossier) is the way he and his family likely colluded with Russian meddling in our election, including plotting to steal and leak Democratic emails (while ignoring Republican emails) and by helping the trolls know exactly where and how to place their fake posts. Impeaching Trump never depended on whether or not Flynn and Manafort are sleazeballs. It depended on Trump’s direct actions—and these, his surrogates insist, have been pure as the driven snow.

Frankly, I’ve worried over the past several months as the investigation zeroed in on Flynn, Manafort & Co. While it was clear they behaved in outrageously inappropriate ways, it also was clear to me that the charges they are facing really have little to do with Trump. I’ve known all along that the real meat was in the direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian intelligence people whose fake posts on social media cost Hillary Clinton her victory. My fear was that, the more Mueller focused on the petty financial crimes of hustlers like Flynn and the others, the more likely it was that Trump would get off.

Until yesterday, when the news broke that Mueller “is zeroing in on the Trump campaign’s data operation—and the RNC.”

That’s big news. Huge, significant news. It means that Mueller is finally getting to the heart of the matter—the stuff Trump and his family did that could result in multiple felony charges and Impeachment.

It’s been a journalistic meme for a year that, while there’s a lot of smoke, there’s no fire—we simply don’t know what it is Trump is supposed to have done, beyond some generally tacky behavior. But in view of this latest report on the state of Mueller’s probe, I think we now see the outlines of the plot emerging, like a distant landscape coming into focus as the fog lifts. Here’s what I see:

  1. Trump got word that the Russians had the “goods” on Hillary, and he urged Putin to release her emails.
  2. All those bizarre meetings were set up last summer between Russians and the Trump campaign to finalize strategy.
  3. The Trump campaign aided the Russian trolls in determining precisely which social media markets to infiltrate. They also helped the trolls to shape messages that were geared to maximize anti-Hillary rage among specific demographic groups.
  4. When Comey started sniffing around the plot, Trump fired him—the first, but hardly the last, instance of obstruction of justice.

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m no lawyer, but even to me, it would appear that there are enough felonies (possibly including treason and misprision of treason) to land certain people in jail for a long time. And the fact that Mueller is looking at the Republican National Committee means that, in addition to the investigation posing serious jeopardy to Jared Kushner, Donald Jr. and Trump himself, it could also ensnare Reince Priebus, Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence.

Late yesterday, of course, we had Trump’s surprise sit-down with the New York Times on his golf course, where he said he thinks Mueller will treat him fairly. I can’t fathom what Trump’s motive for that was–clearly, he had one–but whatever it was in his own mind, it’s meaningless. Mueller doesn’t care what Trump thinks, he cares about what Trump did. And what Trump did cannot be undone.

Is Trump-RussiaGate shaping up to be the biggest political scandal in American history? Yes. If what it looks like turns out to be true, it will dwarf Watergate. Nixon’s downfall really did start with “a third-rate burglary” and escalated only because Nixon tried to cover it up. Trump’s downfall started, not with a petty crime, but with massive violations of U.S. election laws. The subsequent cover-up is only making things worse for him, his family, and everyone else implicated in it.



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