The initial grand jury indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation have dropped like a box of rocks and include something called “Conspiracy against the United States.” It sounds like “fake news” the same way “flesh-eating bacteria” sounds like a prescription.
Conspiracy is only one of 12 charges filed against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who is also accused of money-laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, not paying taxes and being such a smug greedy SOB he makes Bernie Madoff look like a bleeding-heart, social worker who ministers sick puppies.
After pleading not guilty to all charges, both Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates are under house arrest, with Mueller arguing they should be considered flight risks, because both have huge amounts of money, the charges are severe and Manafort has a pattern of lying like a rug in his sleep. His haircut alone represents an extreme threat to public safety.
Apparently the Justice Department is worried the guy might try running back to the Ukraine where he still has a bunch of good buddies and possible safety deposit boxes full of rubles and hryvnias. Because what happens in Kiev stays in Kiev, except, of course, when you’re a big-time international money player with multiple passports and offshore accounts.
Lower down the food chain, a Trump foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, pled guilty to lying to the FBI. He was arrested in July, and is described in charging documents as a proactive cooperator, which has everybody in the Trump administration wondering if he spent the last couple months playing that popular Justice Department game, “Dial a Co-Conspirator” while wearing a wire.
The FBI’s modus operandi traditionally offers peripheral players plea deals, encouraging them to turn on their bosses, then rinse and repeat; working inward like termites of justice until eroding the base and the kingpin falls. And you get the feeling the amateur circles surrounding this president would drop a dime on him faster than a sailor at a Carnival Midway the night before shipping out to the South Seas.
Conspiracy charges also allow prosecutors to hold each defendant responsible for the actions of others within the plot. And now that someone has pled guilty, the principals and vice-principals are starting to distrust everyone, including the family dog. Once everyone lawyers up, you have no idea what your colleagues are saying and the image of marching up courthouse steps with a trench coat draped over your handcuffs starts to loom large.
Three House Republicans introduced a resolution calling for Mueller to recuse himself and spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the official White House position is the investigation is winding down but that sounds like wishful thinking: a malady that afflicts most politicians, but these folks seem especially susceptible to simple syndromes. Just look at the epidemic of Russian Amnesia sweeping through the administration like kindergarten cooties.
Right now members of Team Trump have to be quaking like a Richter Scale in the back of a moving van with bad shocks speeding over railroad tracks in a quarry. Mostly because, as the Carpenters legendarily told us, “We have only just begun.” Or maybe more like that holiday classic, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Watergate.”
Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin.