Donald Trump: The Manchurian president
This week’s series of ‘bombshells’ reveals a leader in Russia’s pocket
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.