Abigail Tracy writes in Vanity Fair:
“Even among some of Donald Trump’s allies, there is a sense of astonishment at the White House’s handling of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. “It’s like no one took down the Gambino family,” Steve BannontoldChris Whipple in a book adaptation the Hive published this week. “Mueller’s doing a roll-up just like he did with the Gambinos. [Paul] Manafort’s the caporegime, right? And [Rick] Gates is a made man!” Indeed, Mueller, who led the F.B.I. takedown of the infamous crime family in the early 1990s, famously cutting a deal with Sammy the Bull to flip on mob boss John Gotti, appears to be executing what some have called a “Gambino-style roll-up.” First, he flippedformer Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos; then, he turnedousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. Now, CNN reports, Mueller appears to be in the final stages of a plea deal with Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman and a longtime business associate of Manafort, who was indicted alongside him last fall.
The White House reportedly views Gates’s testimony as a threat to Manafort, and not to the president. “There’d be no anxiety here,” a White House official told CNN when asked about the possibility that Gates will cut a deal. The charges against the two, after all, had nothing do with Russian collusion; the 12 counts included failure to register as a foreign agent, false and misleading statements related to that registration, and seven counts of improper foreign financial reporting—all as part of a broader conspiracy to launder millions of dollars from their consulting work in Ukraine into the United States. Manafort has pleaded not guilty, and is fighting the charges. But Gates, who has also pleaded not guilty, has been grappling with financial troubles and difficulties with his legal team. According to CNN, he has been in plea negotiations with Mueller’s team of F.B.I. investigators for about a month, and has already given an interview in which he would have revealed any knowledge he might have of criminal activity that could be traded for leniency or immunity in sentencing.
What this means for the White House isn’t exactly clear. While Manafort’s reign as campaign chairman and Gates’s role as his deputy were short-lived, the duo oversaw a series of events and interactions that have come under intense scrutiny in the ongoing Justice Department probe. Manafort and Gates ran the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, during which Donald Trump Jr. held his infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. They were also on board during the Republican National Convention, where a number of Trump campaign officials and surrogates met with Russian officials and campaign officials altered the language of the official G.O.P. platform on Ukraine to be more sympathetic to Russian interests. While Manafort was replaced by Bannon after The New York Times alleged that handwritten ledgers showed millions in undisclosed cash payments designated for Manafort in Ukraine—a claim Manafort denies—Gates continued to work with the Trump campaign through the transition, and served as a senior official on Trump’s inaugural committee.”
For now, the most significant facts in the case remain under lock. Adam Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that the panel has discovered evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 campaign, as well as evidence of subsequent obstruction. “There is certainly an abundance of non-public information that we’ve gathered in the investigation,” Schiff toldreporters. Whether that information is actionable remains to be seen. According to the White House’s own budget request, the administration expects Mueller’s investigation to continue well into next year, despite repeated assurances from the president’s legal team that it was approaching a conclusion. If Gates has the goods, perhaps it will end sooner.
No, the “Don of Con” isn’t “in the clear” as he incredibly asserts. In fact, it appears that the noose is slowly tightening. Exactly the kind of “dangling in the wind” to which The Don likes to subject those subordinates whom he suspects of disloyalty.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” And, there’s so much smoke surrounding The Don, his family, and his current and former associates right now that it’s a miracle nobody in the White House has succumbed to smoke inhalation.