The most convincing indication of the flimsy results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged connivance between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government can be found in the morning-after, front-page headline of the Washington Post:
3 Trump campaign officials charged
Sounds rather dramatic at first glimpse. But who is being charged with what? A close reading of the story that follows reveals that the only big name of the three “officials” is Paul Manafort, the veteran Washington lobbyist and wheeler-dealer who briefly served as the head of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination before he was fired. Manafort has been charged with acts and alleged offenses that have nothing to do with his role in the campaign. Manafort and his longtime business associate, Rick Gates, have both pleaded not guilty—and have yet to be proven guilty—of money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements to investigators. But, even if they are eventually convicted, the charges are in no way connected to the Trump campaign, much less to Donald Trump himself. While a frenetic front-page story in the New York Timesreported as fact that the charges laid out in the indictments “laid out the most explicit evidence to date that his campaign was eager to coordinate with the Russian government to damage his rival, Hillary Clinton,” the story that followed showed nothing of the sort.
Even in the version touted by the New York Times, what Manafort is charged with is laundering “millions of dollars through overseas shell companies—using the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antique rugs and expensive clothes.” Such behavior, if true, would indicate that Manafort has, indeed, maintained questionable habits. But none of it—no matter how many bucks he laundered to dodge taxes or how many designer suits and oriental rugs he splurged on with his ill-gotten gains—can even remotely be argued at be an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Russia. Ditto with his sidekick, Gates.
Which brings us to the third “official” (according to the Washington Post) or “advisor” (according to the New York Times), an obscure young political bottom-feeder by the name of George Papadopoulos. I think it is fair to say that, even inside the Beltway, Papadopoulos is not a household name. A few aging CIA conspiracy theorists may recall that a Col. George Papadopoulos headed the military junta that seized power and toppled the monarchy in Greece in 1967. But, aside from the fact that no one to my knowledge has claimed that the elder and younger Papadopouloses are related, the colonel was removed from power in 1977, ten years before Papadopoulos minor was born, and spent most of his later years as a Greek political prisoner. He died in 1999, when our Papadopoulos would have been all of twelve years old.
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