As the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign gets off the ground I think we’re going to find two separate issues that will probably end up being unconnected in any non-conspiracy-theory way. One is the how and why questions about the Russian involvement. I was and remain a skeptic that their purpose was any greater than to ensure the person they thought was going to win, Hillary Clinton, entered the White House discredited with the public and her party.
The second part is the degree to which a couple of Trump’s senior staff had unseemly connections with the Kremlin, namely Paul Manafort and Carter Page. I will be shocked if Carter Page avoids indictment for something and the truly bizarre letter Carter Page wrote to Department of Justice claiming political martyrdom indicates, at least to me, that the walls are closing in on him and he knows his goose is mostly cooked.
Paul Manafort is the second part of the equation. During the campaign I posted several times on Manafort’s casual and obvious corruption. To all appearances he was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russian mob which means also of Russian intelligence.
CNN interviewed by CNN contributor David Axelrod:
If Donald Trump’s campaign aides like Paul Manafort were contacting Russian officials during the campaign, then the President had nothing to do with it, claims former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
“If anybody crossed a line and gave information to a foreign agent or foreign government or foreign intelligence official, whether that’s Paul Manafort or it’s Rick Gates or anybody else, I hope they’re held accountable,” Lewandowski told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
He later added: “Any staffer who contacted or potentially contacted a Russian agent or a Russian official has done so on their own accord and not at the direction of the campaign, the President or anybody else in the administration.”
This is the weakest possible defense you could ever give someone. It is probably a sign for the level of sympathy Manafort can expect if he gets caught up in this investigation.