The one small detail in yesterday’s arrests that ensures Robert Mueller can take Donald Trump down

Yesterday’s news in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal was game changing, based on the headlines alone: Trump’s campaign chairman and campaign adviser are now under house arrest, even as a third campaign adviser has pleaded guilty and confessed to colluding with the Russian government. Dig a bit deeper, and there’s one small detail from yesterday’s events that means Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the leg-up he needs to take Trump down.

By now you probably know the story: Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos initially lied to the FBI about the timing of his Russian collusion meeting, in an apparent attempt at shielding the campaign. When he was caught in that lie, he then pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and then he confessed to the collusion as part of his cooperation. Here’s the thing: no one is asking how Mueller figured out Papadopoulos was lying.

Someone or something tipped off Robert Mueller and his investigators to the fact that the details of the George Papadopoulos meeting were far different than Papadopoulos had initially claimed. His meeting was with a Kremlin-connected professor who is based out of Scotland. Did the professor rat out Papadopoulos for lying? Does Mueller have some other insider helping him out? How did he get his hands on the knowledge that Papadopoulos was lying about an obscure two-person meeting?

Let’s be clear here: George Papadopoulos lied to the FBI in January, but he wasn’t arrested until this summer. This wasn’t a situation where Papadopoulos contradicted himself in his testimony or otherwise gave himself away. Months after he lied and temporarily got away with it, Robert Mueller and his team had made so much progress that they figured out he was lying and they went back and flipped him. This means Mueller’s case is built on a whole lot more than a mere reliance on flipping witnesses. In other words, he already largely knows what happened in the Trump-Russia scandal, and it means he can take down everyone involved – including Donald Trump.

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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report