We have merely seen Mueller's open­ing act

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - HE­LEN DELFELD

Re­mem­ber back in May when Amer­i­cans breathed a sigh of re­lief that Robert Mueller, the hard-nosed in­ves­ti­ga­tor with an im­pec­ca­ble rep­u­ta­tion, was given the power to in­de­pen­dently in­ves­ti­gate the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion? That re­lief was jus­ti­fied on Mon­day, Oct. 30, when Mueller shifted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a higher gear. And, it ain't over yet.

Sure, he hit tar­gets close to Trump with for­mal in­dict­ments against his for­mer cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s right-hand man, Richard Gates. No one was re­ally sur­prised at this. Any­one who was pay­ing at­ten­tion knew that the two men were laun­der­ing enor­mous sums of money from their Ukrainian and Rus­sian ad­ven­tures. The only sur­prise is that Mueller's team was skilled enough to track down ev­i­dence on a trail de­signed by money-laun­der­ing ex­perts to be im­pos­si­ble to fol­low. They also did so very fast - this gang is good at their jobs.

“But, so what?” Team Trump re­sponded. “So, what?” if a guy Trump knew briefly (over twenty years) did some ques­tion­able stuff (clearly il­le­gal stuff that was counter to U.S. in­ter­ests) long be­fore he be­came cam­paign man­ager (some counts doc­u­ment on­go­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity right into 2017)? And it lit­er­ally had noth­ing to do with the cam­paign, it was noth­ing more than Manafort's bad judg­ment, ac­cord­ing to Trump. The worst that could be said is that Trump made a mis­take in bring­ing the guy onto his cam­paign. Fur­ther­more, any crimes Manafort com­mit­ted made no con­nec­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia, which is the ba­sis for Mueller's man­date to in­ves­ti­gate. That was the ar­gu­ment al­most in­stantly put for­ward by the White House.

But don't take your eye off the pea in this shell game.

Soon af­ter the White House de­clared vic­tory be­cause the in­dict­ments showed no con­nec­tion with Rus­sia, Mueller (in an as­tound­ing move) chose to re­veal a plea deal be­gun months ear­lier that proved pre­cisely the op­po­site. Se­ri­ously, you couldn't write a movie script this tight.

Mueller’s big "re­veal" mo­ment was Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los. He ap­par­ently has al­ready plead guilty and has been lav­ishly as­sist­ing the spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion for some time. The ev­i­dence re­vealed in this plea deal clearly demon­strates that both mem­bers of the cam­paign, and peo­ple thought to be prox­ies of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, were try­ing to con­nect. More­over, they showed clear un­der­stand­ing that what they were do­ing was wrong. So, they were at­tempt­ing to be se­cre­tive.

The Pa­padopou­los guilty plea was a sur­prise to lit­er­ally ev­ery­one ex­cept Team Mueller. That's an amaz­ing feat in a fed­eral gov­ern­ment that has been leak­ing badly. Mueller’s ex­tremely ef­fec­tive gang of lawyers are hon­or­able and loyal to their mis­sion.

Pa­padopou­los was en­gaged by the Trump cam­paign as a for­eign pol­icy "ex­pert", de­spite be­ing miles south of thirty years old, and pos­ses­sive of no par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence or qual­i­fi­ca­tions. He seems to have been en­gaged nearly full-time, cul­ti­vat­ing Rus­sian con­nec­tions and shut­tling mes­sages back and forth on be­half of both the Trump team and Rus­sian gov­ern­ment prox­ies. He flung email chains far up the lad­der, and was in con­stant con­tact with the very high­est rank­ing mem­bers of the cam­paign about Rus­sian in­ter­est. It doesn't get balder than that.

I don't know what is sad­der, that an Amer­i­can cam­paign stooped so low, or that they were so in­ept, that they screwed it all up. Per­haps it's sad­dest that they thought the U.S. pub­lic and its in­sti­tu­tions are fool­ish enough to be per­ma­nently fooled by this amateur-hour cam­paign of lightweights and grifters.

But I do know that the U.S. pub­lic is much bet­ter off for hav­ing a pow­er­ful, fear­less spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor like Robert Mueller on the job.

Mueller's po­si­tion has a leg­endary place in U.S. his­tory. An­other spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, Archibald Cox, was the key fig­ure in bring­ing down Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon. Cox was get­ting very close to nam­ing Nixon in the crim­i­nal con­spir­acy that the pres­i­dent him­self had launched to get re-elected. Scared into truly stupid ac­tions, Nixon forced Cox's fir­ing af­ter two prin­ci­pled men re­fused to do so. Both those men would, in turn, be fired. That was the mo­ment that Repub­li­cans con­clu­sively turned against Nixon. It's hard to fire a pres­i­dent of your own party, but Nixon made it im­pos­si­ble for Repub­li­cans not to act.

Trump has said he thinks Mueller's in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a witch hunt, and that he has the right to fire Mueller. No Repub­li­can has openly com­mented on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion's progress. Trump could fairly in­ter­pret this si­lence as Repub­li­cans not tak­ing sides in a Mueller-trump show­down, or even as tacit sup­port for the pres­i­dent against Mueller. That's dan­ger­ous for Mueller, who would need Congress to pun­ish Trump for sub­vert­ing the course of jus­tice. It would be great to have some prin­ci­pled Repub­li­cans stand up to Trump, in the same way a few brave men stood up to Nixon.

On the other hand, ac­tual in­dict­ments make it a lot more dan­ger­ous for Trump to fire Mueller. The Oct. 30 in­dict­ments prove that Trump's ac­cu­sa­tion that Mueller is base­lessly fish­ing are self-serv­ing .... what's the word?... carp.

And re­mem­ber, this isn't nearly the end of Mueller's in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It's merely a sig­nal he is dead se­ri­ous.

Dr. He­len Delfeld holds a doc­tor­ate in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, spe­cial­iz­ing in women/gen­der stud­ies and in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics. She worked as a hu­man rights ac­tivist and pro­fes­sor for over a decade be­fore turn­ing to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and writ­ing. She cur­rently teaches po­lit­i­cal the­ory to in­mates at a max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison.

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