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Long Reads

The Fall of the President’s Men

As US President Donald Trump leaves for a ten-day trip to Asia, he finds himself in perhaps the deepest trouble since his troubled presidency began. And as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation draws in more of his associates, he will have an even harder time than he has had up to now governing the country he was elected to serve.

WASHINGTON, DC – Like the rest of his fellow Americans, US President Donald Trump is learning that, when it comes to an investigation of a president and his team for criminal activities there’s a vast difference between the hypothetical and the actual. Trump received that lesson this week, with the indictment of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and of Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates. More ominous still was the fact that a young foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, had reached a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and had been cooperating with investigators since early summer.

Americans have known for months that Mueller, an FBI director for 12 years and highly respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, meant business; he was appointed Special Counsel after Trump made the disastrous mistake of firing FBI Director James Comey over “this Russia thing.” Mueller is known for his tough, airtight, and relentless investigative methods, and nothing had leaked from his office for months. It wasn’t until the indictments of Manafort and Gates were announced on Monday morning, October 30, that the public learned anything about what Mueller was doing or finding. Mueller picked up on the efforts the FBI had already undertaken to ascertain whether Trump’s campaign organization or his outside allies had colluded with Russia’s attempt to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

Trump Is the Target

Though Trump likes to say that he isn’t under investigation – he claims Comey had told him so, and it may have been true at the time – there can be no doubt that the president is Mueller’s ultimate target. Such is Mueller’s reputation for probity, however, that it is widely assumed that if he doesn’t find collusion on Trump’s part, he will not strain to bring charges against him. Nor will he reach for something spurious, in the manner of Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s attempts to charge Bill Clinton with something, anything.

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