Former Adviser Turns On Trump – Cooperates With Special Counsel Robert Mueller

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Donald Trump rarely wakes up to good news these days. But today, he’s going to be faced with some of the worst news yet. His 4:00 a.m. Twitter rant this morning shows him to be already compensating for the unpleasant day to come.

This most recent development has to do with the Russia investigation, which is looking into the Trump campaign’s bewilderingly brazen collusion with Vladimir Putin’s government.

Here’s a quick summary (sourced from Vox):

March 2016: Russia begins focused interference in the U.S. presidential election.
March 14, 2016: First attempt for direct contact with Putin’s Russian government is made by Trump campaign official George Papadopulos.
March 19, 2016: Clinton campaign is hacked by Russia through John Podesta’s email account.
March 31, 2016: Papadopoulos relates the offer of a meeting with the Russian government during a meeting with Trump and Jeff Sessions. Trump is interested. Later, Sessions “forgets” this meeting during Senate testimony.
April 26, 2016: Papadopoulos learns about email hack of DNC and Clinton via Russian professor with links to the Russian government. The Trump campaign representative sought to use these to bolster the Trump campaign.
May 19, 2016: Paul Manafort, who previously advocated for Russian interests in Ukraine, is hired by Trump to manage the campaign.
June 3, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. responds to an email offering dirt on Clinton, and aims to set up a meeting. He lies to the New York Times about the purpose of this meeting in July.
June 9, 2016: The proposed meeting is held in Trump Tower, with five Russian representatives, as well as Trump Jr., Manafort, and Jared Kushner.
July 7, 2016: Trump campaign official Carter Page conducts an opaque trip to Moscow.
July 18, 2016: The RNC’s historic position on Ukrainian independence is altered by the Trump campaign to align with Putin’s interests.
July 18, 2016: A meeting between Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Jeff Sessions occurs during the RNC in Cleveland. Sessions fails to mention any contacts with Russian representatives when questioned by the Senate, and later went on to claim that this meeting was as a Senator and not as an campaign official.
July 22, 2016: DNC emails were leaked by WikiLeaks, who were acting on behalf of the Russian government.
July 27, 2016: Trump makes his famous remark regarding the Clinton email leak, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
August 19, 2016: Manafort resigns after evidence of his receiving a shady payment from Russian contacts in Ukraine ($12.7 million).
September 8, 2016: Sessions again meets with Kislyak, in a scheduled private meeting. Sessions again doesn’t remember this meeting when he’s questioned by Senators.

The shenanigans didn’t end after the election. Then-President Obama sanctioned Russia for its involvement in the U.S. election. In response, the Trump campaign bursts into action.

December 29, 2016: Trump campaign and transition team member Michael Flynn called Ambassador Kislyak to discuss Trump’s anticipated response to the sanctions. He lied to federal investigators when asked about the call. This is one of the charges that he was indicted on and pled guilty to.

After Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the investigation kicked into high gear with the appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Muller. Muller is an expert in aggressively constructing the perfect case and achieving results, as he did in the Enron case.

Muller took aim at George Papadopoulos, who joined the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team in March of 2016 and immediately after began communication with Russian contacts, was arrested in July 2017. He eventually pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. Despite Trump’s protestations…

Papadopoulos’ cooperation is a huge blow to Trump’s defenses. Here’s his fiancée explaining exactly what he’s offering investigators:

The next round of indictments were released in October 2017. In the spotlight were Paul Manafort (former) and Rick Gates (who acted as Manafort’s deputy during the Trump campaign), who were jointly indicted on twelve counts. They were accused of failing to register as foreign agents, making money off of their work as foreign agents, and then laundering that money in the U.S. and in foreign accounts. When they were asked by officials about their lobbying work, Manafort and Gates lied to officials. Due to their hiding illicit funds in foreign accounts, Gates and Manafort both evaded taxation on that income. Manafort was accused of laundering more than $18 million, while Gates was accused of laundering approximately $3 million.

Gates and Manafort both pled not guilty.

The next indictment focused on Mike Flynn, charging him with lying to the FBI regarding his communications with Russian ambassador Kislyak. He quickly pled guilty.

Trump was quick to defend Flynn:

But unbeknownst to Trump, after Flynn pled guilty, Flynn quietly began to remember the importance of honoring America’s values instead of protecting a politician. Andy Wright, a law professor, explained it this way (via Vox):

‘We can infer Flynn’s cooperation by what is not charged. We know from public reports that Flynn has a ton of criminal exposure, and yet he’s pleading guilty to a relatively minor crime. I’m confident Flynn is singing like a bird to Mueller.’

Flynn’s cooperation was seen as momentously bad for Trump. And Trump had no idea that Flynn had switched allegiances:

What does this all have to do with Trump’s horrible morning?

Well, it turns out that another indicted member of his campaign staff is following Flynn’s example. Despite initially pleading not guilty, it appears that Rick Gates is now cooperating with federal investigators. Some have suggested that this change in heart came from Muller’s information on Gates’ wife, as well as other pending charges for Gates’ himself:

There is other evidence to support the theory that Gates flipped. First of all, sources report that Gates seems to have secured new counsel. According to CNN:

‘[Tom] Green, a well-known Washington defense lawyer, was seen at special counsel Robert Mueller’s office twice last week. CNN is told by a source familiar with the matter that Green has joined Gates’ team.’

 

Green also represented former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who was first indicted in 2015 on financial charges. After the initial charges, Green negotiated with prosecutors, as they had leverage over Hastert: The financial crimes were committed in an attempt to cover his payments to victims that he sexually abused. Hastert eventually pled guilty to lesser financial crimes, but admitted guilt regarding his molesting of several boys.

Clearly, Green’s involvement on behalf of Robert Gates signals a turning point in the Trump-Russia investigation. Gates was on the ground level of Trump campaign communications with Russia. Donald Trump has much to lose if Gates is indeed cooperating.

Featured image: Brendan Smialowski/Getty