Everything about Trump-Russia will change on Friday

In the minds of one too many casual observers, the President of the United States isn’t actually having a criminal scandal until the people around him start getting hauled off to prison. Due to the complex and unusual manner in which Donald Trump’s Russia scandal has been unfolding, it’s left too many outsiders trying to figure out if it’s a scandal at all. That’s all about to change this Friday.

Sure, Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates were famously arrested late last year. But neither one is in prison. Gates cut a plea deal which ensures that he’ll serve several years in prison, but he won’t actually be sentenced until he’s completed his cooperation with investigators. Casual observers probably aren’t even aware that Trump’s original White House National Security Adviser was arrested last December, because he cut a plea deal and quietly surrendered himself voluntarily. He’s also agreed to go to prison for several years, but he hasn’t been sent there yet.

What’s different about this Friday? That’s the day Paul Manafort is going to prison. He was recently caught conspiring with a Russian government spy in order to tamper with the witnesses against him, which means he has a new arraignment hearing on Friday, and his current house arrest is about to turn into actual prison. Various legal commentators have advised that Manafort “bring his toothbrush” to the hearing, because he’ll very likely be hauled away to prison on the spot.

So now we’re entering the phase where the guy who ran Donald Trump’s campaign will be sent to prison, because he got caught illegally conspiring with the Kremlin. That changes the narrative significantly in the eyes of the average observer. Paul Manafort isn’t even the most important player in this. The Flynn and Gates plea deals, along with the in-process plea deal from Michael Cohen, will play bigger roles in Trump’s demise. But as far as perception goes, Trump-Russia is about to become the rare juicy scandal in which the “President” of the United States starts seeing his own top people hauled away to prison. That makes it very real for everyone watching at home, and all but impossible for Trump’s apologists to argue otherwise. Help fund Palmer Report

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