The Corner

Politics & Policy

Where Mueller Is Heading

CNN is out with a new report on the investigation. It is not surprising that Paul Manafort is, if this report is to be believed, at the center of the suspicions:

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation. James Comey, in his Senate testimony, said the FBI opened an investigation into Trump campaign-Russia connections in July 2016. The strands of the two investigations began to merge.

In the months that followed, investigators turned up intercepted communications appearing to show efforts by Russian operatives to coordinate with Trump associates on damaging Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, officials said. CNN has learned those communications included references to campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

What is also not surprising is where this thing is probably ultimately headed, which is not toward blowing the lid off a conspiracy to steal the election, but toward tracking down potential financial wrong-doing only loosely related to the original subject matter of the investigation:

Worse yet, some FBI officials fear the question of whether there was any criminal coordination or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may never be answered.

One challenge is that tantalizing pieces of intelligence are missing key links because they did not develop long enough for investigators to determine their significance. These include intercepts monitored by US intelligence that showed suggestions of illegal coordination but nothing overt.

Those missing links mean that the FBI and Mueller’s prosecution team may not have enough evidence to bring charges related to possible illegal coordination with a foreign intelligence service. Instead, prosecutors could pursue financial crime charges unrelated to the election [emphasis added].

In other words, it looks like this could be a textbook special-counsel investigation — ever-widening, until there is something to prosecute, no matter how removed from the initial alleged offense.

(h/t @byronyork)