If Donald Trump Is Going Down For Russian Ties, It Will Start This Week

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The star of ‘Presidential Apprentice’ may be about to learn at last that the United States Constitution does not work like a reality television game show.

Having fired FBI Director James Comey, and then all but admitted that he was motivated to obstruct justice, Donald Trump’s presidency is ready to become one of the shortest in American history. The beginning of the end will probably come this week.

“It’s time to think about lawyering up,” Daniel Samuelsohn warns Trump staffers at POLITICO this morning. Trump “arguably could be impeached now,” says professor Allan Lichtman, who has famously predicted every presidential winner since 1984 and now touts a book titled The Case for Impeachment. “Everybody knows that Trump is guilty, but the verdict is not yet in,” says journalist and screenwriter Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Everyone knows why Trump fired Comey. Everyone knows they all lied about it. Everyone knows that this is obstruction of justice. Everyone knows that this is an impeachable offense. And yet, just as it was after Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the political will isn’t yet there to impeach the president. Once again what is needed to reach that point is evidence of the underlying crimes. This is the very evidence Trump has been attempting to suppress by declaring the whole “Russia thing” a “hoax” and “fake news.” The underlying evidence is what Trump tried to suppress when he fired FBI Director Comey. The FBI reportedly now has more than 100 agents in at least three field offices working on the Trump-Russia investigation. (Emphasis mine)

“A case for removal can most definitely be made and has merit,” writes Charles Blow today as he calls for managed expectations. “But there remain untold steps between plausibility and probability.” He’s right, but that’s exactly the checklist that federal law enforcement agencies seem to be working on right now.

They are creating the political will for impeachment by finding evidence of criminality, including but not limited to collusion with Moscow.

The FBI’s strange raid on a political fundraising firm in Annapolis, Maryland last week is reputed to be part of a wide-ranging response to Trump’s firing of Comey by aggrieved agents, and indeed Trump’s long real estate career offers many threads for them to pull, unraveling a global web of lies and money laundering — especially rubles.

“They have already found the string and they are pulling on it, based on my contacts inside the FBI and they are starting to tug on that string,” Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today. “And they are going to keep tugging, keep going, and it’s accelerated because of the way he fired Comey, and he knows it.”

“This is a constitutional crisis.”

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is now turning over records of transactions: “A former senior U.S. official indicated that federal investigators are examining whether Russian investments in any of Mr. Trump’s properties or business ventures could be traced back to Russian government sources,” reports the Wall Street Journal, “including Russian officials who might own banks that were lending money to Mr. Trump.”

And if there’s one thing that federal prosecutors are good at, it’s convicting Russian mobsters.

Progress in congressional committees has been absurdly slow thus far, and resistance to an independent investigation remains strong in Republican leadership. But that can change, and it already is, with the Senate Intelligence Committee now expanding its focus to Trump’s businesses. Congress will follow wherever the bureaucracy leads them. While the alleged president continues to focus on maintaining a facade of innocence, senators are not having his back.

That is a tangible shift in the political winds, and today everyone in national media seems to sense that a big shoe is about to drop.

Thanks to American laws, Trump’s business associations expose him to risk of prosecution. They always have, and even more today than a few years ago, but only now do federal law enforcement agencies have a real incentive to actually investigate him — and a sense of emergency about getting the job done.

Paul Manafort, who guided Trump’s campaign through its crucial months of securing the Republican nomination and the convention, is a walking study in foreign lobbyist money laundering. Even the way he left the campaign, taking out massive loans from Trump-connected businesses, seems like a sketchy payoff for someone who had bragged about taking no salary. And Manafort is just one of dozens, even scores of people orbiting Donald Trump who may be involved in illegal activity — which is why the rumors have become so expansive.

The day after Comey’s firing, we learned of a federal grand jury empaneled in the Eastern District of Virginia to consider charges against Trump associates with Russian connections. Now the former Clinton White House staffer who first reported that grand jury’s existence says that dozens, even scores of Trump associates and business entities face sealed indictments.

Taylor also says that a second grand jury is looking into violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

On Saturday evening, Taylor and Louise Mensch, a controversial British journalist, posted a short and explosive story. “Separate sources with links to the intelligence and justice communities have stated that a sealed indictment has been granted against Donald Trump,” they said.

Although Taylor admits garbling the transmission of this breaking news somewhat, his sources have so far been uncannily accurate, and it makes perfect sense that FBI counterintelligence agents would make such a move right now.

Because Donald Trump can still slow things down. He can appoint Rudy Giuliani or another sycophant to lead the FBI. He can fire inspectors general. He can hire an army of lawyers. This is the moment to drop big headlines on the president, right now, before he does any of those things.

“Thanks to his lifetime of skirting, euphemistically, norms, the president has been living on borrowed time ever since his inauguration,” writes Nina Burleigh at Newsweek. Trump actually shortened the fuse by firing Comey. But to successfully impeach him, there will need to be Republican defections, which may explain the most tantalizing rumors of all in this matter.

An all-encompassing, dragnet investigation could very well turn up evidence of broader collusion in the Republican Party. If, as rumor has it, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been caught turning a blind eye to Russian money being laundered into the GOP, then both the party and its most important congressional leaders are on the hook for conspiracy charges under RICO law. Once evidence of a criminal conspiracy is established, all that prosecutors have to do is prove they were part of it.

That’s tremendous leverage, and the kind of outcome that Republicans will throw Donald Trump under the impeachment bus to avoid.

Time is short and the moment of decision is at hand. The next few days may very well determine whether our Constitution and the rule of law survive Trump, or vice versa.


Featured image: Russian state propaganda outlet TASS

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