Breaking news on top of breaking news! Court filings on top of court filings! But read between the lines of Robert Mueller’s redacted documents, and here is what you learn: The motley characters that Donald Trump hired and hung with had very, very close ties to the Russians.
Exhibit A: his former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen. Prosecutors in New York, along with the Mueller investigators, filed new court papers in the Cohen case that directly implicated “Individual-1” (aka the president of the United States) in a scheme to use campaign funds to buy the silence of two former Trump paramours. And an even bigger bombshell: The filings also described Russian efforts to forge an alliance with Trump before he won the election. Here is how The Washington Post summed it up: “Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign.”
But that’s not all! Also on Friday, Mueller declared that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told “multiple discernible lies” during his interviews with prosecutors, including fibbing about his contacts with an unnamed employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. This was after Manafort had purportedly “flipped” and had sworn to come clean with Mueller. One example of his perfidy: Manafort told the Mueller team he had no contact with the White House since the inauguration, but in fact, he was blabbing to the administration as recently as last spring.
As the noose tightens, there is plenty of speculation—will the moving finger of fate point to Don Jr. and Jared Kushner next, with the holiday gift of indictments awaiting them both? Will the run-up to Christmas finally reveal who was on the other end of those blocked phone numbers that Don Jr. called immediately after the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June 2016? You might be wondering just about now how the president himself responded to these head-spinning revelations. Well, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, just after the Cohen documents dropped, he tweeted: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”
This was hardly the only eye-popping tweet of the week—or even of that day. Earlier on Friday, the president offered this extraordinary assessment of his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson: “Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame [sic], great spirit at State!” (Seems that Trump was livid that Tilly had given an interview in which he described the president as an undisciplined nonreader who repeatedly attempted to do illegal things.)
In other news: Former national security advisor Michael Flynn was apparently so fulsome, so melodious in his singing to Mueller—a veritable gushing fountain of “substantial assistance”—that on Tuesday, Mueller recommended he receive no jail time at all. On Saturday, the president announced that Chief of Staff John Kelly, who it is rumored has not spoken to Trump in months, is flying the White House coop at the end of the year.
And guess who the president has nominated to be the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? Surprise answer: State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. Among her other dazzling non-qualifications: She is a former host of Fox & Friends.