No matter how much physical or transactional evidence Special Counsel Robert Mueller amasses against Donald Trump in his investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal, it may never be as crucial to his case as the cooperating witnesses. Trump’s own underlings and associates, testifying against Trump, and against their own interests in the process, are the proverbial ace in the hole. Mueller has just landed a pair of them.
At the beginning of this week, Mueller revealed that he had secured the guilty plea and confession of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. In that confession, Papadopoulos incriminated Donald Trump and three campaign officials when he testified that he informed them of his plot with the Russian government in advance. Now, at the end of the week, another Trump campaign adviser has formally confessed to essentially the same scenario.
On Friday night the New York Times revealed that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page not only met with Russian government officials during his summer 2016 trip to Moscow, he sent emails to Trump campaign officials informing them of his meetings (link). More importantly, this isn’t a second hand story. Page confessed to it during his House Intel Committee testimony on Thursday. He’s surely given the same testimony, or will give the same testimony, to Robert Mueller. This gives Mueller his pair of aces when it comes to cooperating witnesses who are willing to testify against their own interests – and it’s almost impossible to overstate how important that is from a legal standpoint. Moreover, Mueller may actually have more than two aces.
This week it was revealed that after Papadopoulos incriminated Trump campaign official Sam Clovis in his Russia conspiracy, Clovis testified before a Mueller grand jury. Clovis did not notify the Trump administration of his testimony in advance, strongly suggesting that Clovis may have become a cooperating witness as well. Trump can call Papadopoulos a liar, or Page a liar, or Clovis a liar – but it becomes incredibly hard for him to sell the notion that all of them are lying about him. This is how he goes down.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report