Send lawyers and rubles

To the Editor:

Special counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered more Russian characters mingling with Trump campaign officials than are found in a Tolstoy novel.

For months and months, Trump and his minions have claimed they had nothing to do with Russians during the 2016 campaign. “Fake news,” Trump groused.

I guess the Trump folks forgot about the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower— a meeting that included Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort — all of whom met with a Russian attorney to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

I guess they forgot about a March 31, 2016 meeting, which included Trump and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, where a campaign adviser — George Papadopoulos — said he had Russian connections through a London professor and could potentially arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So far, Mueller’s investigative path appears to be following at least one simple technique: Follow the rubles, comrade.

The Trump crew appeared, in the past, to have a penchant for obtaining rubles from Russians. Getting “dirt” from Russians on Clinton was a logical extension.

Does the president’s steadfast refusal to release his tax filings have anything to do with Russian money and loans co-mingling with his finances and real estate holdings? Hmm. Perhaps Mueller will find out.

Multiple-count federal indictments were handed down a few weeks ago against campaign manager Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates, who also worked on the Trump campaign.  One of the charges was “conspiracy against the U.S.” Indeed, make America great again.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his Russian contacts in exchange for an apparent plea-bargain arrangement to avoid imprisonment.

Papadopoulos, whom Trump called an “excellent guy,” was on the presidential candidate’s National Security Commission and was present in the March 2016 meeting, where he reportedly advised Trump and Sessions he had contacts who could possibly arrange a Putin meeting.

There’s a widely circulated campaign photo taken at the March meeting of Papadopoulos seated at a table with the commission, along with Trump and Sessions. So far, Trump hasn’t claimed the photo is a fake.

As an aside, it appears Sessions’ testimony, taken under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, is raising questions about whether the then-AG candidate lied about any Russian connections during the campaign. Sessions had testified there was no Russian contact, or at least he couldn’t remember any.

Between press reports and federal court documents, it appears at least 10 people associated with the Trump campaign — including his son, Donald Jr. and son-in-law, Kushner — had direct contact or knowledge of contacts with the Russians to “get dirt” on Clinton.

Manafort and adviser Gates are now under house arrests and wearing GPS ankle bracelets.

According to court documents, the pair allegedly laundered part of the $75 million received from a pro-Russian lobbying group that supported the Russian armed incursion into Ukraine.

Is it a strange coincidence that the GOP platform was changed at the 2016 Republican National Convention — when Manafort was in charge — to drop the support of sales of U.S. weapons to Ukraine to fight the Russians.

The move contradicted years of GOP opposition to anything Russian on the party’s platform. Remember President Reagan in Berlin: “Tear down this wall!” Putin certainly didn’t want to arm Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian incursion. Hmm.

Follow the rubles from the Russian Fat Cats and Mobsters to the offshore banks in Cyprus. Court papers allege Manafort used offshore bank accounts to buy millions in cars, clothing from California and New York, home landscaping and nearly $1 million in oriental rugs.

Hot damn! Mueller is just getting cranked up. Fired Trump NSA adviser Michael Flynn, who failed to register as a foreign agent for his lobbying activities with Turkey, and lied to Trump and Vice President Pence about his Russian contacts, has pled guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with ueller.

Would Clinton have won without Russian involvement in 2016? Probably not. She was an awful candidate with more baggage than a Delta airliner.

But 17 U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies said Russia interfered in the last election and appeared to be helping Trump. It’s worth investigating to determine ways to stop further Russian interference in U.S. elections.

If someone broke into your house and stole your stuff, you’d want to know how and why.  You’d want the cops to tell you the details of what they discovered about the suspect. You’d want to know how to prevent break-ins in the future. You’d want justice. Wouldn’t you?

If I were Trump and his staff I’d be concerned about what additional findings Mueller uncovers.  The “fake news” is turning into federal indictments and could eventually reach family members and the president himself. It’s the lying to investigators — not the actual colluding — that will make them culpable to prosecution and the Trump crew seems to have trouble with the truth.

James Budd

Bryson City

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