First Indictment Reportedly Issued In Mueller’s Russia Investigation

The first shoes appear ready to drop in Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

Trump Russia

In news first broken last night by CNN, it’s being reported that Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, has obtained his first indictments in the investigation, although it’s unclear exactly who the subject of the indictment might be:

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

Shortly after President Donald Trump abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. Mueller took the reins of a federal investigation that Comey first opened in July 2016 in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Mueller is authorized to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” according to Rosenstein’s order.

The special counsel’s investigation has focused on potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as obstruction of justice by the President, who might have tried to impede the investigation. CNN reported that investigators are scrutinizing Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia.

The most likely subjects of the indictment(s) that may or may not be unsealed early next week are fairly easy to guess at, and it’s likely that the initial charges will at best only tangentially be related to the 2016 campaign or the issues that have been the central focus of the investigation. At the top of the list, of course, would be Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign manager through most of the early part of 2016 and helped guide it to primary wins and, eventually, a successful 2016 Republican National Convention victory. Before that position, Manafort had a long history as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill for a variety of clients, including foreign companies and foreign governments. Under the applicable Federal law, anyone who lobbies on behalf of a foreign interest must specifically register as such with the Federal Government. This is in addition to other laws that require people to register as lobbyists generally if a certain percentage of the work they do involves lobbying either Members of Congress and Senators or Federal Government officials on behalf of any client foreign or domestic. However, there are also separate laws and regulations that require someone who lobbies on behalf of a foreign entity to register regardless of how much of a percentage of their work it might be. In Manafot’s case, there have been multiple reports since January that he failed to disclose work that he performed for several foreign nations, including Turkey and the former government of Ukraine that was a close ally of Russia and that he also failed to disclose contacts with officials in Ukraine and Russia. While Manafort has apparently since amended his disclosures to include these matters, they are still considered serious violations of the law that could result in imprisonment or jail time if he is convicted.

Another potential target of an indictment would be retired General Michael Flynn, who served as President Trump’s National Security Adviser until mid-February but was forced out after it was revealed that he had lied to transition team officials, Vice-President Pence, and others regarding the extent of his contacts with the former Russian Ambassador to the United States. Additionally, like Manafot, Flynn spent much of his time since retiring from the military Flynn has also been engaged in lobbying, including for foreign entities in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world. As with Manafort, there have been several reports that Flynn also failed to report at least some of this lobbying on behalf of those entities on the proper disclosure forms. Flynn also apparently updated his disclosures after the fact, but that still leaves him open to the possibility of criminal prosecution.

All of this, of course, is just speculation, of course, but given the information that we know, these seem to be the two most likely possibilities for these initial indictments.

If these guesses prove accurate, though, it’s worth noting that these initial indictments are likely to at best only be tangentially related to the main subject of Mueller’s investigation, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t have a potentially huge impact on that investigation. As I’ve noted before, one of the most common strategies that prosecutors pursue in complex cases such as this is to focus in the beginning on the low-hanging fruit that may be uncovered during the course of the investigation in the hope that it can lead to relevant evidence against people higher up. It’s a common approach in conspiracy cases, for example, and in investigations involving large-scale criminal enterprises such as drug smuggling and other forms of organized crime. What typically happens is that they focus on the lower-level players in the organization, or in this case, potentially people no longer affiliated with it, and use evidence they have against them of crimes unrelated to the alleged conspiracy to attempt to secure their cooperation in the main investigation via a plea deal. These deals, obviously, would be contingent on the defendant’s cooperation with the prosecutor, including testimony before a Grand Jury or at trial as necessary. In some cases, those cooperation agreements are worked out behind the scenes between the prosecutors and the attorneys representing the lower-level targets before indictments are unsealed.In those cases, it isn’t uncommon for all parties to appear in Court and advise the Judge that a deal has been reached and that a plea will be entered at some point but that sentencing would be delayed pending the defendant’s cooperation in the underlying investigation. Alternatively, it’s possible that no such deal has been reached and prosecutors are moving forward with indictments in the hope of parlaying a plea deal in the future. Whatever the case is, and whoever it is that has been indicted, is apparently something we’ll find out early next week. At the very least, though, this would seem to establish that the Russia investigation is far from over despite what the Trump Administration and other Republicans might think.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    Just waiting for someone leaking that Mueller has an appointment with the Chief Judge to discuss “a difficult constitutional problem” first thing Monday morning.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    There’s certainly more than enough to indict Flynn and Manafort.

    The question is whether Trump will fire Mueller. His 38% will back him, and the GOP Congress will be utterly flaccid.

    The question then will be voters in the mid-terms. Flip Congress and Trump might as well resign.

    In any case Democrats need to start looking at candidates with the moral standing to start a push against corruption. I suspect in three years a good 60% of Americans will be desperate for some integrity in the White House. After the Trump crime family is gone we’re going to need a whole lot of new ethics legislation, and we should have a squeaky clean presidential candidate.

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    I bet it’s General Flynn. He’s been really sloppy, and hes on tape having dinner with Putin.

  4. @Mu:

    Don’t get your hopes up. First of all, it’s way too early in the investigation for what you’re suggesting. Second, there’s a general legal agreement that sitting Presidents can’t be indicted. They must be impeached and removed from office first.

  5. CSK says:

    Trump got talked out of firing Mueller last summer, by whom, I don’t know. Will anyone be able to restrain him this time?

  6. MBunge says:

    This would actually set up a rather interesting dilemma. You have to be kind of stupid to think that Manafort and Flynn are the only ones guilty of this. And you’ve got to be an outright moron not to understand that a guy like Manafort knows an awful lot about the lobbying scene that everybody in DC would like to keep under wraps. So while some will be engorged with anticipation of Mueller flipping them to reveal the dastardly Trump/Russia conspiracy which no one can actually explain, some will also realize pretty quickly that this could be problematic for a lot of others and they won’t be able to just ignore it like they have the ongoing corruption trial of a US Senator.


  7. MBunge says:

    this would seem to establish that the Russia investigation is far from over despite what the Trump Administration and other Republicans might think.

    No, it doesn’t. If lobbying disclosure violations are all Mueller has now, that can just as easily be an indication of how little else he’s got.


  8. DemsSuck says:

    @michael reynolds: No such thing as a squeaky clean Democrat. Only a lying, cheating, bribing, murdering Democratic candidate with an appetite for pedophilia.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @<a hre@MBunge:

    I hear your whistling.Where’s the graveyard?

  10. I might guess that whatever is revealed about the “indicted” will either be a snore – or far more shocking than thinkable. I hope these first indictment(s) will be fairly soft targets at first and then ramp up, if needed, in order to measure civil unrest related to to these and grand jury indictments generally which are unpopular with many jurists and policy analysts.

    The grand jury hears only the ‘states’ side in such cases – no defense is permitted to keep the matter more secret than in open indictments almost immediately brought by city, county,state, and federal prosecutors – long or “special term”. They appear to be unfairly single sided, and can be, but they are excellent tools to keep matters under blankets so that targets don’t run or worse. It will an interesting time – far more interesting than the Clinton probes of “yore” as those did not involve what could be heavy federal crimes such as, laundering, banking, trade, and even treason should things may have gone far more “wild” than we think today. JMK

  11. Gustopher says:

    It’s going to be politically harder to shut down an investigation that is producing results — I suspect this indictment is timed for the optics as much as it is timed for the investigation.

    Flynn and Manafort have basically always been indictable.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @DemsSuck: ironic humor, or earnest right winger? It’s so hard to tell.

    This is why I never found Steven Colbert funny — his exaggerated right wing charicature would have been called a RINO by a huge section of the right. He failed to parody.

  13. CSK says:


    The Trumpkins believe that Mueller did this because he wanted to forestall all the calls for his resignation yesterday.

    But perhaps the calls for his resignation came from those who got advance word the indictments were coming down.

    Just musing.

  14. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think most Americans care about corruption. People just assume politicians are corrupt. Outrage of a particular politician’s corruption is just virtue signaling.

    Trump steers government and foreign money to his own businesses and his opponents are outraged. Obama travels back in time to forge his birth certificate, and his opponents are outraged. It’s two sides of the same sad coin.

  15. Davebo says:

    @MBunge: A boy has to dream!

  16. @MBunge:

    Despite your wishful thinking, and the propaganda from the White House, it’s clear that this is far from over.

  17. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: The Republicans have been trying to shut down the investigations from the moment they started. They are putting party ahead of country. (Never believe anyone who says “America first” to actually put America first — if you have to say it, you’re not doing it. It’s like “believe me”, or “just the tip”)

    I don’t think that there has to be any realization that Mueller is about to indict before they called for his resignation, I think they were waiting for a few months to pass and a lull in apparent results to try to kill it. And, I think Mueller was hanging onto some low hanging fruit for just this purpose.

  18. James Pearce says:


    Only a lying, cheating, bribing, murdering Democratic candidate with an appetite for pedophilia.

    Jeez, dude, there’s plenty of room to criticize the Dems without being a complete f’ing idiot about it.


    If lobbying disclosure violations are all Mueller has now, that can just as easily be an indication of how little else he’s got.

    We’re talking about Donald Trump, Mike. He’s lived a corrupt, scandal-plagued life. His administration has already proven to be cut of the same cloth. Are you sure you want to bet that his campaign stopped at lobbying disclosure violations?

  19. Davebo says:

    When William Browder publicizes Russia’s murder of crusading lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Russia turns around and implies that maybe Browder is the one who murdered Magnitsky. The accusation is preposterous, but that doesn’t matter. The purpose is to create an offsetting accusation against the accuser, so that the average bystander can only puzzle at the spectacle of two sides making the same allegation against each other.

    This method can work if you have enough mouthpieces who are sufficiently devoid of skepticism or intellectual self-respect to be willing to spread your obviously absurd message. A key fact that Trump has discovered, and which has enabled his takeover of the Republican Party, is that this is a resource the American right has in abundant supply.

    Sound familiar Mike?

  20. JKB says:

    Interesting. Manafort was apparently in bed with Hillary’s buddy Podesta, who Mueller just went from looking at files to investigating. If this indictment is for Manafort, I wonder whom they might be looking for information on.

    Mueller has his own looming problems associated with Hillary’s lucrative deal selling America’s uranium to Putin.

    In any case, Trump is not in danger of legitimate indictment or impeachment. The Russia collusion now has snagged Hillary, Obama, Comey, Mueller, etc. Trump seems to be the only one not involved with colluding with Russia.

    What that latter means is it will be next to impossible to convince a Constitutional majority of voters that Trump should be removed from office. The divisions in the country are to deep. The Russia collusion story to jumbled. When the story is confused, people stick with what they got.

  21. Paul L. says:

    I am willing to bet the indictment will be Perjury, Suborning Perjury or Lying to a Federal official.
    Harvey Silverglate: Beware of Robert Mueller

  22. @JKB:

    As the 80’s song goes, you are quite literally the king of wishful thinking.

    Repeating non-sensical propaganda from the Trump Administration and Fox News doesn’t make it true you know.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    You get a gold star for regurgitating drivel you’ve slurped up from the Breitbart trough.

  24. al-Ameda says:


    No, it doesn’t. If lobbying disclosure violations are all Mueller has now, that can just as easily be an indication of how little else he’s got.

    Interesting point. I wonder how many Clinton people thought, as you do now, less than one year in, that Ken Starr really didn’t have much. 6 years later …

  25. Terrye Cravens says:

    @JKB: That was just plain ridiculous. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people on the right are so damn easy to lie to. You guys believe anything. Literally, anything.

  26. Modulo Myself says:

    If Trump opened fire on 5th Ave, not only would conservatives let him get away with it but within two days they would be speculating that the so-called victims were Clinton voters and thus part of some plot to get in front of Trump’s bullets. All of which would be related to the uranium deal, Benghazi, and her missing emails. Who were these people? And what did they know?

  27. JKB says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    We shall see, we shall see.

    You guys seem to have a lot of wishful thinking from where I’m standing.

    It will be interesting to see how reality turns out.

    In any case, Trump’s cabinet, who had almost no involvement in the campaign, thus no tie to your wishful thinking on Russia collusion, will just keep moving along, transforming government. The power of delegation.

    We shall see how it all sorts out.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: I support a thorough investigation of Russian involvement in our elections wherever that leads. The Republicans have been trying to kill or neuter any investigation from the moment it started though.

    Was Podesta working with the Russians? Or is this just the fever dreams of the right wing fever swamp? Let’s let an independent investigator find out.

    Did Russia support the Trump campaign because they were pro-Russian, or was the Trump campaign pro-Russian because of Russian support? Let’s let an independent investigator find out.

    Was the Trump campaign riddled with people compromised by the Russians? Let’s let an independent investigator find out.

    Are the Trumpeters guilty as hell, or just acting guilty as hell for the fun of it? Let’s let an independent investigator find out?

    We need to have a full understanding of the Russian attempts to influence and meddle in our elections. The Republicans have been trying to block this because “America First” comes with some fine print about party being the better part of America.

  29. charon says:


    Thanks for the Fox News Channel Clif Notes.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    This thread serves as the perfect example of the big problem we are dealing with in this country…the Trump supporters are literally inventing their own alternate reality to explain away his misdeeds…their rationale is so obviously ridiculous…and this is just a microcosm of the country as a whole…as long as we have half the country believing in one reality and the other half believing in a totally opposite reality, it will be really hard to bring the country as a whole together…

  31. They Saved Nixon's Brain says:

    …there’s a general legal agreement that sitting Presidents can’t be indicted. They must be impeached and removed from office first.

    Unindicted co-conspirator AAARRRRRGH!

  32. michael reynolds says:

    The one thing we can be sure of is this: the truth will come out, and it will show Trump and his administration to be a criminal conspiracy to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense, to money-launder and to collude with Russian intelligence to steal the election.

    Trump may fire Mueller. He pay manage to stop the prosecution. He may pardon himself and the rest of his gang. But in the end we will all know the truth. And we will know just how depraved his followers are.

    Even Rasmussen has ‘strong opposition’ at 47%. After indictments and especially after Trump manages to do the stupidest thing possible, that ‘strong opposition’ number will be over 50%. And that’s just the people who will never vote for Trump under any circumstances. That is a very tall hill to climb for a man who has thus far recruited less than zero new support.

  33. wr says:

    @JKB: “In any case, Trump’s cabinet, who had almost no involvement in the campaign, thus no tie to your wishful thinking on Russia collusion, will just keep moving along, transforming government. ”

    Yes, just as they’ve transformed a two-man operation funded by Trump donors and owned by buddies of the interior secretary into the sole company responsible for repairing Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, despite their complete lack of experience, and shoveled $300 million at them.

    No corruption in Trump’s cabinet!

  34. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Gee, that’s funny. Only the DNC and the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia and paid for a bizarre memo through a laundering operation at a law firm.. Only the DNC and Clinton.

    Oh, and:

    In Interviews With Congress, John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Denied Knowing Who Paid for the Dossier

    Despite the fact that it was them, through their lawyer Marc Elias. Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz both privately denied to congressional Russia investigators that they had any knowledge about an arrangement to pay for opposition research on President Donald Trump, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

    The interviews happened before this week’s disclosure that the Clinton campaign and DNC paid for the research. Senate investigators may seek to further question the two top Democrats and dig deeper on the origins of the so-called Trump dossier, one of the sources briefed on the matter said. Their remarks to congressional investigators raise the stakes in their assertion that they knew nothing about the funding because it’s against the law to make false statements to Congress.

    Marc Elias was both Podesta’s and the DNC’s lawyer — as well as being the pointman at the law firm that actually laundered Clinton’s and the DNC’s money to pay Fusion. Elias, representing both Podesta and Wasserman-Schultz, said nothing as his clients made false statements to Congress about having “no idea” who funded Fusion, and despite himself being in a position to know with certainty. Whether or not this testimony was under oath, it is a crime to provide false testimony to Congress. Elias certainly knew about the funding and its connection to the DNC and Team Hillary, and yet remained silent. He may not have been a witness, but as the attorney representing Podesta — who served as Hillary’s campaign manager — wouldn’t he have at least leaned over and advised his client not to answer that question? And given that sources close to Hillary Clinton claim she found out about it in January, long before this probe began, wouldn’t Podesta have known about it by the time he answered this question?

    Damn. And now we have CNN colluding with Fox, those crazed Foxies.

  35. @JKB:

    I’m not hoping for anything. I want a full and complete investigation by both Mueller and by the relevant Congressional committees because I consider the fact that a foreign adversary attempted to interfere in and influence an American election to be a serious national security matter.

    The people who are the problem here are the President, the Administration, and the Republican and conservative sycophants and cowards who continue to support this President who are all calling for an end to these investigations and trying to distract people with Fake News about a debunked conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton and Uranium One. You’re a bunch of partisan hacks who are willing to put party before country and who obviously have no shame.

  36. Tom M says:

    Makes me wonder about the timing of the Dana Boente resignation.
    Did he not want to be a part of Firing Muller?

  37. Tom M says:

    I meant to say,
    Makes me wonder about the timing of the Dana Boente resignation – did he not want o be in the position of firing Muller next week?

  38. michael reynolds says:

    Thanks, Drew, but we already have JKB and Bunge to regurgitate today’s Breitbart bullsh!t.

  39. Tom M says:

    I read this blog everyday and I don’t comment much, but the type of comment below does not belong on this (or indeed, any) blog. I rarely suggest that people be blocked or banned, and it’s not my business, but one of the reasons why I do read is that this blog does not have this type of crap.
    There is plenty of grade school naw-nawing which is fine, I guess, but this is toxic, and not appropriate.

    DemsSuck says:
    Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 11:33
    @michael reynolds: No such thing as a squeaky clean Democrat. Only a lying, cheating, bribing, murdering Democratic candidate with an appetite for pedophilia.

  40. Modulo Myself says:

    Last year at this time Comey sent a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails. Apparently, though, Comey was part of the DNC/Russia/Clinton conspiracy to elect Donald Trump and then use the dossier they apparently manufactured not for the election, but for a Deep State investigation after the election. Because that makes sense.

    It’s like the claim that the Democrats rigged the popular vote by 3 million but failed to cheat in Wisconsin and Michigan.

    This is Grandpa listening to Alex Jones while blaming his home aide for stealing his cane when he can’t remember where it is.

  41. Tyrell says:


  42. Hal_10000 says:


    For the last time: Democrat awfulness does not excuse Trump awfulness. And even if the two were equivalent, only one of those groups has the ability to fire nuclear weapons.

  43. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Guarneri: What a load of crap that was. Of course the Democrats funded the dossier after the Republicans surrendered to Trump. Who cares? The FBI was investigating these ties already. And it is possible that members of the Clinton campaign and the DNC were walled off from this information. Who cares? It is opposition research. What is the big deal?

    None of that changes the fact that Trump has been kissing Putin’s ass. It was a subject of discussion during the campaign…especially after the DNC was hacked and Wikileaks went to work to help get Trump elected.

    I realize that the right has been busy this week with the dossier bullsh*t and the Uranium deflection, but most Americans have come to see Trump for what he is. Too bad the same can not be said for his cult.

  44. James Pearce says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Of course the Democrats funded the dossier after the Republicans surrendered to Trump.

    When I was a kid, this punk in my class challenged me to a fight, but before we traded blows, he goes, “You better not punch me in the face.”

    My first punch went right into his nose.

  45. CSK says:


    Well, yes, GPS is “global positioning system.” I get that. But could you explain its relevance to the current discussion?

  46. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Terrye Cravens: You don’t get it. In Drewistan (and its neighboring country Guarneria) it’s only oppo research if it’s about Hillary. If it’s about the heroes of those respective nations, in felonious assault on the privacy a person of national importance.

  47. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    I love how many so-called Patriots are rushing to defend the attack on our country by Russians.
    JKB, Guarneri, etc.
    Yet they also scream about pledging sllegiance….

  48. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Daryll:

    You can make this into a syllogism:

    All Trumpkins love anything Trump loves.
    Trump loves Putin.
    Trumpkins love Putin.

  49. Hal_10000 says:


    Mueller has his own looming problems associated with Hillary’s lucrative deal selling America’s uranium to Putin.

    The most important point of the uranium deal is that the uranium could not be removed from the United States. So this entire scandal — and there may be some corruption involved on the Russia side — is being pushed on a false implication: that this somehow endangered national security. It did not.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    Only the DNC and the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia and paid for a bizarre memo through a laundering operation at a law firm.. Only the DNC and Clinton.

    Nice try, alleged rich person, but, as usual, you are full of $hit…as we have learned, it was originally a conservative website that was trying to dig up dirt on Trump through the same organization that the Dems later used…here’s a hint, screaming, “I know you are but what am I!” will not get the Orange Mange off the hook for all of the bad news that will soon be coming his way…

  51. Tyrell says:

    I look for Muller to indict himself and then plead the 5th. I would think that now the focus has moved to GPS. And Weinstein.

  52. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell: Are you ok? Did you get a new phone, or did you have a stroke? I mean that seriously, is everything ok?

    You’re usually coherent, even if you live in some weird version of the 1950s or something. This doesn’t seem like you.

  53. They Saved Nixon's Brain says:

    Solutions are not the answer…

  54. CET says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “After indictments and especially after Trump manages to do the stupidest thing possible, that ‘strong opposition’ number will be over 50%.”

    You have more faith in voters than I do. I’m concerned that even if the investigation turns up exactly what we think it will, too many people have already abdicated any responsibility to think for themselves. Fox, and The Völkischer Beobachter Breitbart will continue to claim the whole thing is a left-wing hoax to distract from Benghazi/Uranium One/Vince Foster/etc. The number and geographical distribution of people who live in that alternate reality is apparently sufficient to win the electoral college, and controls a lot of seats in both the House and the Senate.

    It is possible that the GOP will grow a collective spine and impeach Trump anyway…but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting.

    Tthe question that keeps me up at night: What is going to happen when Trump either loses an election or gets removed from office and refuses to go (claiming fraud/conspiracy/etc)?

  55. Mikey says:


    Fox, and The Völkischer Beobachter Breitbart

    I was going to say Breitbart is more like Der Stürmer, but Trump supporters actually have that.

  56. Mikey says:

    Trump mouthpiece Roger Stone has finally gone too far for Twitter, and has been banned.

    Don’t worry, Roger, there are still plenty of other Trump lickspittles out there who will continue infecting America with your master’s message of idiotic hate.

  57. Jen says:


    Only the DNC and the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia and paid for a bizarre memo through a laundering operation at a law firm.. Only the DNC and Clinton.

    This is the SINGLE DUMBEST talking point that has been issued from the right-wing fever swamps, and the bar for that is pretty low.

    That is NOT collusion. If that is how people are now defining “collusion,” it means that every single intelligence operative we have is “colluding” when they are collecting information on a target.

    My god, has FOX made this country dumber.

  58. Mikey says:

    At the very least, though, this would seem to establish that the Russia investigation is far from over despite what the Trump Administration and other Republicans might think.

    This is likely “the end of the beginning.” I am not anticipating any huge bombshells this week, because the stuff many Americans suspect–including any cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians to influence the election–will take a long time to put together. Things like money laundering are easier to find, and nobody will be surprised if Manafort is implicated.

  59. OzarkHillbilly says:


    It will be interesting to see how reality turns out.

    Reality, another thing that has never troubled your feeble mind.

  60. Rick Zhang says:

    I don’t think Trump is personally involved, if for no other reason than that he is too dense to concoct an intricate plot. I also don’t think that shooting for impeachment is a great political strategy. It will cause people to be more defensive. What is more effective in the long run is to keep a bumbling fool in office, energize the base, keep the GOP demoralized, and focus on winning 2018 and 2020. Chances are also high that the country goes into a recession in the next 3-4 years, which would be another negative hit to Trump’s popularity.

    What I do think is plausible is that his advisers schemed among themselves to collude with Russia. They convinced Russia that they could be advocates of Russian interests and that Trump was by far a more pro-Russia candidate than Hillary (not that Putin needed much convincing given his vendetta with Hillary). Putin has also historically gotten along better with more corrupt and pliable Republicans, who are ready to throw away ethics and morality for money.

    This means Manafort, Flynn, Kushner, and Trump Jr are all entangled in this, from the evidence that’s leaked out so far. I doubt Russia would have been able to pull off a sophisticated social media ad campaign targeting vulnerable demographics in swing states without advice from an expert in US politics.

    A side effect of the investigation is to find that Manafort and Flynn are guilty of tax evasion, money laundering, and unregistered lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. Those are by themselves serious enough crimes, and one has to be a fool to believe that they wouldn’t try to push agendas that are pro-Turkey and pro-Russia if they had continued to linger in the White House.

    Yet, despite these revelations, nothing much will change. Trump will let a few of his cronies (and maybe even some family members) go to prison. Trump’s base will continue to believe what they want. The country will remain just as divided until the next election. Most worrisome of all, there won’t be any legislation to safeguard against social media propaganda by foreign governments.

  61. JKB says:

    @Doug Mataconis: who are all calling for an end to these investigations and trying to distract people with Fake News about a debunked conspiracy theory

    I’m not calling for an end to the investigations. It’s just getting good. Mueller chose to form a partisan operation, but now is faced with his own entanglements so will have to try to appear unbiased. I am finally hopeful of getting to the bottom of the Russian influence in establishment DC as I believe we are just at the cusp of the bloodletting in hopes of saving themselves.

    Fake news? Maybe it was on the up and up, but it sure has the appearance of corruption, collusion and suppression of FBI investigations from on high. Remember, stories of Harvey Weinstein were “Fake New” and “debunked” until they weren’t.

    As your previous post related, many opponents are now lining up in support of Trump. He’s been successful in many areas ignored by the media. I expect more courage from the rank and file government workers who will let out corruption of the political bosses of the last 9 years in hopes of saving their agency’s reputation. It’s going to be an interesting few months. Although more of the Chinese curse for those in or formerly of official Washington. I don’t expect big indictments. Obama and Clinton’s collusions were to bold, but I do expect a lot of political realignment and them packed off to obscurity.

  62. Gustopher says:


    Remember, stories of Harvey Weinstein were “Fake New” and “debunked” until they weren’t.

    When was that?

    I remember when people on the right were trying to inject Harvey Weinstein into every discussion, because he gave money to Democrats, and everyone ignored it and returned to whatever you were trying to distract us from, but I don’t recall it being debunked or called “fake news”. Just irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

    I do think we owe a debt of thanks to the far right for pushing the issue of sexual harassment and assault in general here though. Would the current #metoo campaign have taken off without the far right pushing Harvey Weinstein? I don’t think so, I think it would have just slipped back under the rug. And I think it’s another moment where a lot of people (men, really) are beginning to realize how pervasive sexual harassment really is — someday, we will have a society that doesn’t tolerate it.

  63. Gustopher says:

    @Rick Zhang: Trump doesn’t have to be the ringleader to be involved. Or even particularly intelligent. He certainly seemed to know of breaking news from Wikileaks before it broke, for instance.

  64. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Jen: Nah. Drew is an imbecile, but he’s using “collusion” for it’s connotative effect, not for any declarative purpose. The actual meanings of words is of little concern to him; after all, he’s a big business *typhoon* (as my father used to say). Words only get in the way of making deals at his level. Just ask Trump.

  65. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    …without advice from an expert in US politics.

    With the cast of characters (no pun intended) listed there. This is where your argument might come off the rails. Trump works *the Trump mind control magic* that he does on a visceral, brain stem, level. Still, thank you for the insightful observations.

  66. Jen says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: It isn’t just him though. This is the exact same nonsense Ari Fleischer was dispensing a few days ago, along with a few others. They literally think that they can change the definition of “collusion” to mean “anyone who interacted with a Russian.” I guess. It’s incredibly stupid.

  67. Tom says:
  68. Rick Zhang says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: I don’t think that derails my argument. It’s just saying that Trump’s friends may have withheld information from him, in hopes of protecting him. There’s little evidence of Trump being the ringleader of anything with Russia. Just imagine he’s a good mafia boss. How likely is it that the mafia boss gets caught being directly linked to a crime? You build in buffers of protection, subordinates, code words, and plausible deniability. If there was something that he knew about that he could be indicted on conspiracy, his lackeys would go to prison for him like Scooter Libby did for Cheney.

    @Gustopher: Leaking something told to him by his friends/family is not a crime (that I know of), even if the information was obtained illegally/illicitly. What matters more is who knew what and when, and how much did Trump know about the collusion of his friends/family.

    Thinking now in practical terms, it’s better to let the taint of stigma and scandal linger around Trump, hampering all efforts of his administration to pass legislation that will harm the country. It will also allow the civil war brewing in the Republican Party to poison attempts at compromise within their caucus. This is where Schumer and Pelosi are showing that they are the seasoned politicos, resisting the urge of more radical members of their caucus to push for impeachment when the public will and political ability are not there. They also recognize that Pence would be far more effective, popular, and dangerous.

  69. michael reynolds says:

    @Rick Zhang:
    I don’t think Pence would be either more popular or more dangerous. He’s certainly a foul human being, but he’s also devoid of charisma, and a significant part of Trump voters were just in it for the entertainment value. Pence is not entertaining. And Pence, unlike Trump, has actual beliefs which may not work too well with the idiot multitudes.

  70. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Gustopher: Mueller is not the one who is making this partisan…Trump’s political allies are. They are that defensive. Meuller is a Viet Nam vet, a former Marine rifle platoon leader who was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service. No bone spurs for him. He was appointed Director of the FBI by George Bush following 9/11.He was the longest serving person in that position since Hoover. And the GOP loved the guy until he got this job and things started looking dicey for their guy. Then came the character assassination and the demands that he resign or be fired.

    Pathetic. Obvious deflection.

  71. teve tory says:

    I have one overriding curiosity about Trump and his support:

    In my day-to-day life in the deep south, the principal animating force within enthusiastic trump voters is the idea that he’ll round up and deport all 10 million illegals in a massive and cruel law enforcement operation. They positively drool at the idea. Which, like many things conservatives want, is fundamentally impossible. But when trump makes a deal in a month or two which protects all the DACA people, are they going to excuse it as #FakeNews, or will they realize they’ve been betrayed?

  72. Terrye Cravens says:

    That comment was mean for JKB…obviously. I have no idea how I managed to respond to the wrong person.

  73. Kylopod says:


    They literally think that they can change the definition of “collusion” to mean “anyone who interacted with a Russian.” I guess. It’s incredibly stupid.

    It’s stupid, but probably effective. Look at how successfully Trump has appropriated the term “fake news.” That term first arose because there’s been a real problem over the past couple of years of stories spreading on social media that are made up out of whole cloth. Trump uses the term to mean “anything the media says that I don’t want to hear.” While most non-Trumpists recognize his use of the term as utter bollocks, and that most of what he calls “fake news” is very much real news, the original issue of fake news on social media has been all but forgotten. In other words, even when the nonsense coming from Trump and other Republicans isn’t accepted at face value, it often succeeds at the task of drowning out the legitimate story.

    That’s the danger of the GOP’s attempt to appropriate the word “collusion.” It’s not an everyday word, and before this year a lot of people would have struggled to define the term in a legal context. So when Republicans respond to charges of Russia collusion with “No, you colluded!”–while their claims against Democrats might not stick, it reinforces the idea that “collusion” is nothing more than an empty partisan buzzword in a he-said-she-said battle, a narrative the shallow numbnuts in the so-called mainstream media will lap up like the good lapdogs they are.

  74. MarkedMan says:

    Just a couple of predictions/speculations:

    – Trump is owned by Putin. And, Rick Zhang, sorry to disagree, but Trump is actively involved. I don’t know that Mueller will ever be able to prove it, but in my mind the way Trump behaves when the subject of Putin comes up makes it an absolute certainty that the Russians have enough on him to put the fear of God into him, probably both financially and for his life. In thirty years of observing Trump there is only one other person that he reacts to like Putin: his father. He never brings him up, he never says anything the slightest bit negative about him. (Oh, and fun fact: Trumps father was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Manhattan. Not relevant, but I just like to bring it up when I can)

    – This is a prediction: If Trump goes down, it will be because he didn’t come clean with his lawyers. Trump is basically a moron. Any intelligence he once had has been obliterated, whether by age, mini-strokes or pill popping (have you seen his doctor?). He retains the basic minute by minute cunning of the mentally challenged petty thief or the drug addict, but his basic reaction is to conceal, conceal, conceal. His lawyers are marshaling their strategy based on whatever Trump is telling them, but I’m certain Trump isn’t telling them everything.

  75. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t think Pence would be either more popular or more dangerous.

    I used to agree with that. The New Yorker had a long article on Pence a week or two ago. He’s even more a creature of the Koch Bros than Scott Walker. He sure looks like a Dominionist, but the article makes clear he’s been willing to set that aside for one thing, his ambition.

  76. Rick Zhang says:

    @MarkedMan: I agree that he certainly behaves like Putin owns him. I’m not sure if he’s personally *ordered* any of the collusion or was made aware before the fact. As I said, it’s possible that he was kept out of the loop for his own protection, or that Manafort and Flynn used their Russia connections to help Trump win the election independently of Trump’s orders.

    This is of course only pertaining to the Russia hacking/social media scandal. It does not excuse the encounters before that such as with business dealings and the Miss Universe pageant. It’s possible that Putin has dirt on him from that being used as blackmail for good behaviour. For that, I’m not sure that it would be an indictable or impeachable offense.

    Then there’s the possibility that he was actively or peripherally involved, at least enough to be indictable if he weren’t president. In that situation I think his allies/cronies/family will fall on the sword enough and keep silent such that Mueller can’t conclusively prove that Trump knew enough to be charged.

    Lastly, even if we do make it all the way to establishing guilt, I don’t think it’s the smart thing to impeach, even if Dems regain control of congress. See above for my reasoning.

  77. Rick Zhang says:

    @michael reynolds: He’ll be more popular with independents and traditional conservatives, and I think that he’s learned enough from Trump and Bannon to harness the ascendant populist forces, at least paying enough lip service to their policy priorities to win their support. He’s less gaffe prone, which will help stabilize his popularity at a higher baseline than Trump.

    By effective I mean in passing legislation. I think he could have threaded things like the travel ban and Obamacare repeal using more effective arm twisting tactics, as opposed to Trump, whose tweeting got him in hot water.

    It reminds me of a debate I had with a friend in the primaries. He was worried most about Cruz due to his fundamentalist leanings. I thought that Cruz would not get elected (Hispanic name which would lose him the racist vote, and not blatantly populist enough), whereas Trump was saying all the right things to the white working class that he could rewrite the electoral college and smash through the upper Midwest blue wall. I thought Trump would cause less harm once in office due to sheer ineptitude, but that he had a much higher chance of being elected.

  78. grumpy realist says:

    @Rick Zhang: It might also be something as simple as Putin being the person that Trump wants to be and knows deep down he never will.

  79. Mikey says:
  80. MarkedMan says:

    Manafort is interesting. If the goal is to get him to roll, and given that he was Trump’s campaign manager, the only people worth cutting a deal for are Trump, his family, or very, very senior officials. It would be hard to imagine that Manafort, in the short time he dealt with Trump, could have become part of his merely financially corrupt cesspool, so that would leave Russia.

    But it may also be that Mueller wasn’t able to find enough indictable wrt Russia beyond Manafort. Although I firmly believe Putin has Trump’s tiny little balls in a vice, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out to precede and be separate from the Russian election interference. It will be fascinating to watch this play out.

  81. MarkedMan says:

    Josh Marshall has an interesting perspective:

    Even based on what is publicly known, what was publicly known a year ago, that Manafort has been involved in highly questionable foreign representation for decades and a lot of financial transactions that look like money laundering. As I said last night about President Trump, lots of people slip through for years or decades without getting in trouble for their financial crimes. Some never get caught. Going to the white hot center of the US political process is a really good way to get caught.

    Why would Manafort do that?

    One plausible explanation is simple hubris. Arrogance makes people stupid. But there are other indications that Manafort needed money, that he was overextended and desperate. But he, quite conspicuously, worked for Trump for free.

    That’s odd. Because there’s nothing about Paul Manafort and his forty years in the US political world that suggests he works cheap or for free. But a salary is not the only way or even the primary way someone like Manafort could restore himself financially through getting tight with Donald Trump. The big pay off would be in the influence he would gain and the money he could make of the work – either re-juiced for the US political game or to get the big money in Russia or the Ukraine with his influence batteries recharged.

    As I noted yesterday, spies look for people who are crooked and people who are desperate. Manafort looks like he was both. How and why did he come to work for Donald Trump?

  82. JohnMcC says:

    @Rick Zhang: In any discussion of the possibility of President Mike Pense it’s important to remember that he would have the biggest piece of patronage ever; he gets to appoint the next Vice President.

    That would heal a selection of wounds in the R-party if handled right.