I’m gonna put my Nostradamus hat on again. I’d say it’s far more likely than not that the Feds are going to turn over the findings of their investigation to a Grand Jury, who will in turn recommend indictments to some of Trump’s team. Not on Trump. Not just yet anyway, but on his minions. Comey’s people are zeroing in on Michael Flynn and Carter Page. If I were a betting man, I’d say we’re going to see a real circus this coming summer and Flynn and Page will be in the center ring.
It’s all so déjà vu. During the summer of 1974, Watergate built up and built up and built up, until that crescendo in August when Nixon said “screw it,” … and the nation exhaled. But before that happened, his cabinet (including his Attorney General, John Mitchell) and several of his advisors were convicted of everything from perjury to obstruction of justice. I doubt we’ll be so fortunate this time to see the appearance of another John Dean. But even without one, Page, Flynn, and possibly Bannon, Kushner and Sessions probably haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since this thing blew up. Again the analogies are so familiar: Sessions has already been caught lying under oath about meeting with some key players. The FBI has been investigating Haldeman and Erlichman … I mean Page and Flynn for months. And those FISA judges don’t issue warrants willy-nilly.
Based on nothing other than what we know today plus my personal hopes, I believe one or more of them will be convicted of colluding with Russia to help their candidate secure the presidency. But here’s the catch (and you lawyers out there can correct me if I’m wrong about this). Even if Page, Bannon, Flynn, Sessions, & Kushner all get sent off to the hoosegow, unless they can prove Trump was directly involved with their actions, he stays put. Unless one of them sings, Trump can claim; “Look, I had nothing to do with this. These guys did all this without my knowledge,” it’ll be up to the Special Prosecutor—assuming there is one—to connect the dots.
This is how it played out with Watergate. Nixon was shocked… SHOCKED to learn that his senior staff were all involved in a conspiracy that just happened to benefit only one person on Earth, Nixon himself, and to shield him from prosecution. Then one day Senator Howard Baker (a Republican from Tennessee) summed up the entire scandal when he asked; “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
And so it is with Trump/Russia. If… a big IF people start dropping like flies, I’m hopeful that someone will sing. And if that songbird can produce proof that Trump was at least aware of what was being done on his behalf, then he’ll be in deep shit. The story reported by Louise Mensch a few days ago about an audio recording of Trump promising to make life easier on Putin in exchange for his cooperation is tantalizing, but until it’s confirmed, I remain dubious. But if it should turn out to be true, that would be the mother of all smoking guns. He’d be finished.
But without a direct connection between Trump and this alleged quid pro quo, all the president’s men might pay for their crimes, while Trump himself can escape their fate. I’m cautiously optimistic that a smoking gun will appear. Either in the form of the aforementioned audio tape, or some photograph or document that one of Trump’s pawns might have squirreled away for just such an occasion. A “bargaining chip” to be cashed in upon the issuance of the first subpoenas. Or an indictment with their name on it.
Again, I’m just thinking out loud. I don’t know anymore about what’s going to happen than anybody else. But I’d be willing to bet my oldest bottle of Laphroaig that the summer of 2017 is going to be explosive. We’re going to see some political pyrotechnics. True, the GOP holds all the cards. But there are still a few (occasionally) honorable folks amongst them who love their country.
It was Republican Howard Baker (who went on to become the Senate Majority Leader, the position currently held by Mitch McConnell) who coined the unofficial slogan of Watergate and proceeded to resolve it. It was über Republican Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative himself who marched over to the White House to tell Nixon it was time to pack his bags. I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but I believe James Comey is a straight shooter. Yes, he screwed up BIG TIME last fall with the Hillary Clinton thing, and yes, I believe it contributed greatly to her defeat. He himself has since admitted that he regrets how he handled that. And I also believe we can rely on the likes of John McCain and Susan Collins and possibly a handful of other Republicans to put their country before their party. Besides, what choice do we have? If we can’t trust any of them and there’s no smoking gun and no songbird, then we’re screwed until at least 2020.
But Howard Baker’s end game is also our end game: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” All these ‘suspicious contacts with the Russians’ is the prelude to what comes next. Page and Flynn will probably be the first pieces taken off the board, but not the last — that’s how it’s played. You pick off the pawns first, then the mid-level muscle, then you work your way up to the King. But in this case, dethroning the King might depend on how hard you squeeze those mid-level guys by the balls. Comey and his staff are currently trying to ascertain which rook or bishop or knight needs to be squeezed the hardest.
I believe they’ll get there by this summer.