Don­ald Trump: The Manchurian pres­i­dent

This week’s se­ries of ‘bomb­shells’ re­veals a leader in Rus­sia’s pocket

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT - Tony Bur­man

What will Amer­i­cans do when it is proven to them that their pres­i­dent has been com­pro­mised by their most dan­ger­ous for­eign ad­ver­sary in cru­cial ways for more than a decade — in­clud­ing the bail­ing out of his once-bank­rupt busi­ness em­pire with il­le­gal Rus­sian money, his in­volve­ment in per­sonal and busi­ness scan­dals kept se­cret from the U.S. pub­lic but known and en­cour­aged by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, and the rig­ging of the nar­rowly won 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to favour his can­di­dacy and sab­o­tage his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, with the full knowl­edge and com­plic­ity of the can­di­date, his fam­ily and se­nior Repub­li­can cam­paign team?

And, as as­ton­ish­ing, what will Amer­i­cans do when they learn that their pres­i­dent, be­holden to the Rus­sians for these rea­sons, has con­sis­tently tried to tilt U.S. pol­icy in Rus­sia’s favour, of­ten at the ex­pense of what many re­gard as the United States’ na­tional in­ter­est?

We haven’t reached that point yet — not quite — but that day will come. Amer­ica’s great con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis of the 21st cen­tury is not far off.

We can con­clude that af­ter what many le­gal an­a­lysts de­scribed as “bomb­shell” de­vel­op­ments in the past 10 days in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s un­re­lent­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Don­ald Trump’s ties to Rus­sia.

The over­whelm­ing scale of Trump’s po­ten­tial crimes is be­com­ing ev­i­dent as key as­pects of Mueller’s probe be­come pub­lic. In­creas­ingly, what has been long al­leged and sus­pected by the best of in­ves­tiga­tive me­dia in the U.S. is, stepby-step, be­com­ing con­firmed.

Here are five high­lights from the flurry of ma­jor de­vel­op­ments in re­cent days in the Mueller probe:

Trump is now the tar­get

Af­ter more than 18 months of work,

Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion has proven to be more than a “witch hunt,” as Trump de­rides. Thirty-three peo­ple have been in­dicted or pleaded guilty, in­clud­ing five for­mer ad­vis­ers to Trump.

But the fo­cus in­creas­ingly — for the first time — seems to be on Trump and his fam­ily. How Rus­sia owns Trump The most stun­ning rev­e­la­tion came from Michael Co­hen, Trump’s long­time “fixer.” He ad­mit­ted in court that he had been in­volved in se­cret ne­go­ti­a­tions about a Trump ho­tel pro­ject in Moscow well into the 2016 cam­paign — and af­ter Trump had clinched the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Yet Trump per­sis­tently claimed that “I have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia — no deals, no loans, no noth­ing.” Cor­rup­tion with­out lim­its The pro­posed Trump Moscow pro­ject was to be fi­nanced by a sanc­tioned Rus­sian bank black­listed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment. But with­out dis­clos­ing his in­volve­ment, Trump called for the lift­ing of sanc­tions against Rus­sia. One by one, Trump’s de­nials about Rus­sian in­volve­ment in his busi­ness em­pire are prov­ing to be lies. Mueller’s “booby trap” There is now a grow­ing the­ory among some U.S. le­gal an­a­lysts and jour­nal­ists that Mueller may be “booby trap­ping” the process to pro­tect the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from be­ing cut off by Trump. There has been an ac­cel­er­at­ing tempo to Mueller’s work — through crim­i­nal in­dict­ments, sen­tenc­ing mem­o­randa and other of­fi­cial court fil­ings. Put to­gether, they may even­tu­ally con­sti­tute the core of his fi­nal re­port. What hap­pens next There is an ac­cep­tance in the U.S. le­gal com­mu­nity that Mueller won’t ac­tu­ally in­dict Trump be­cause of a long-held be­lief that sit­ting pres­i­dents are im­mune to crim­i­nal in­dict­ments. That doesn’t ap­ply once the pres­i­dent is out of of­fice.

There prob­a­bly will be more in­dict­ments soon, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing Don­ald Trump Jr. Mueller is ex­pected to write a re­port about Trump’s con­duct that would in­evitably lead to a de­bate over im­peach­ment in the newly Demo­cratic House of Representatives.

What is ob­vi­ously un­known at this point is how long Trump will re­main in the ring and fight on. But it will be dur­ing this his­toric mo­ment when we see whether the United States of Amer­ica’s fa­bled Repub­lic — or Trump’s Amer­ica — tri­umphs.

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