Today we got word of one of the stranger twists in the Trump-Russia probe to date: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Tony Podesta, the brother of former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, for his possible role as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. It’s set off some immediate panic within the Resistance: has Trump somehow co-opted Mueller’s investigation into being about Hillary? Has Mueller been some kind of Trump plant all along? No, none of these things are the case. In fact the Resistance should be pleased about this latest development.
Mueller has been investigating former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort for the tens of millions of dollars he took from a pro-Kremlin oligarch, in relation to Manafort’s work to get a Kremlin puppet elected in Ukraine. Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent, making the payments illegal, whether or not there was anything specifically illegal about the kind of work that Manafort was doing. During the course of this probe into Manafort, Mueller has discovered that Tony Posesta may have also taken Kremlin money and failed to register as a foreign agent.
So right off the top, we can see that this is just the natural course of the investigation. Special Counsels are supposed to investigate all of the serious crimes that their investigation naturally leads them to. It’s not as if Mueller decided to seek out a way to play both sides with his probe. In fact he’d be violating his duties if he didn’t pursue this. The investigation into Manafort led him to Tony Posesta, and the fact that Podesta’s brother ran the Clinton campaign is just happenstance. Based on the publicly available evidence it’s already clear that, whatever Tony was or was not up to, John had nothing to do with it.
In addition to there being nothing nefarious here on Mueller’s part, this happens to be good news for the Resistance, both from the standpoint of justice and appearances.. Let’s say that Tony Posesta is innocent. If so, then Mueller’s investigation will prove as much, and it’ll demonstrate to everyone involved that Trump’s Russia scandal had nothing to do with Hillary. On the other hand, let’s hypothetically say that Tony Podesta is guilty of failing to resister as a foreign agent or some other crime. In the name of justice, you’d want him to have to answer for it, no matter whose brother he is – and it would prove that Mueller isn’t biased against Trump.
In the mean time, Donald Trump may begin tweeting garbage about how his Russia scandal is actually a Hillary scandal. That’s fine, let him have his fun. No one will buy it but his own base anyway. He’ll look awfully stupid later on, when Robert Mueller proves that either Tony Podesta is innocent, or that Tony Podesta is guilty in a manner which had nothing to do with John Podesta or Hillary Clinton. In the mean time, Trump cannot make his Russia scandal go away simply by tweeting things.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report