More bad news for Trump

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - JENNIFER RU­BIN Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­ /peo­ple /jennifer-ru­bin

Paul Manafort’s de­ci­sion to co­op­er­ate as a po­ten­tial wit­ness for spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III is news the pres­i­dent never wanted to hear. The prospect of such a deal is why his lawyers re­port­edly dan­gled the promise of a par­don in front of Manafort’s lawyers. We do not yet know whether this co­op­er­a­tion will re­veal in­for­ma­tion about Pres­i­dent Trump or the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but a plea deal that could put the Rus­sians in­side Trump’s cam­paign blows to smithereens the no­tion that only low-level non-play­ers, or those dis­tantly re­lated to the cam­paign, had Rus­sian con­nec­tions. Trump, who was prais­ing his for­mer cam­paign chair­man to the heav­ens just weeks ago, will find it hard (but not im­pos­si­ble) to now smear him as a liar.

“The re­lent­less Mueller push con­tin­ues — as does that of the rule of law,” ob­serves for­mer White House ethics coun­sel Nor­man Eisen. “The re­ported co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment could be dev­as­tat­ing to the pres­i­dent — and those around him. Manafort, for ex­am­ple, could im­pli­cate not only the pres­i­dent in the Trump Tower meet­ing, but also oth­ers who were in­volved such as Don Jr. or [Jared] Kush­ner. The same is true on the mys­te­ri­ous [RNC] plat­form change, and in­deed on all the pos­si­ble col­lu­sion of­fenses.”

The plea agree­ment cer­tainly ex­plodes Trump’s claim that Mueller is en­gaged in a “witch hunt.” The only “hoax” here is the pre­tense that there was noth­ing out of the or­di­nary go­ing on in­side the Trump cam­paign, or that it was too dis­or­ga­nized to have spent time col­lud­ing with Rus­sians.

Trump also loses the ar­gu­ment that Mueller is wast­ing tax­payer money. As part of the plea deal, Manafort is go­ing to cough up $46 mil­lion in for­feited as­sets, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports. That more than pays for Mueller and his team (who, at last glance, had spent $20 mil­lion). Then again, it all de­pends how high a price you put on the restora­tion of Amer­i­can democ­racy.

Be­fore Fri­day, Trump was al­ready crash­ing in the polls and Mueller’s ap­proval was ris­ing, in large part be­cause of last month’s con­vic­tion of Manafort and the guilty plea by Michael Co­hen. The record­ing of Trump dis­cussing a pay­off with Co­hen surely didn’t help his cred­i­bil­ity.

What we will find out in the days and weeks ahead is just how much Manafort knows and how much he can tell us about what Trump knew re­gard­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence. Repub­li­cans who have been car­ry­ing wa­ter for the pres­i­dent, put down the buck­ets and run for your po­lit­i­cal lives. Frankly, at some point, vot­ing for im­peach­ment and re­moval might be a good op­tion for Repub­li­cans.

Be­fore we get there, how­ever, there are the midterm elec­tions, which are shap­ing up to be a wipeout for the GOP.

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