The most insightful voice you need to start paying attention to as Trump-Russiagate unfolds

IF YOU’RE NOT a Twitter denizen, chances are you may not be familiar with Seth Abramson. While he’s a periodic guest on CNN, BBC and more, his impressive intellect and work largely is consumed by political junkies.

Monday’s Mayhem stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation illustrated why every American concerned with the state of the republic ought to be reading this professor/author/journalist/lawyer.

He produced a 116-tweet summary Monday that stands as a work of art in the plain language he used to dissect the developments and their implications.

Abramson broke it all down logically. Here’s a sampling addressing the process:

  • America is getting an education in how prosecutions work: prosecutors charge everything they possibly can that they think they can prove.
  • That doesn't mean new charges can't be added on these men later, but we can assume this is everything Mueller thinks he can prove *now*.
  • In an investigation of this size and scope, the early charges are *mostly* intended to compel defendants to cooperate with investigators.
  • No one believes Paul Manafort is the final target of the Russia probe, nor even necessarily that these are all the charges he could face.
  • But these are the charges Mueller has now, and he may have investigated them first because they're—relatively speaking—easier to prove.
  • To be clear, financial crimes are not easy to prove. But if you can get the records you need, you can proceed. Collusion is testimonial.
  • What that means is that the evidence most likely to prove a Trump-Russia conspiracy involves words said between persons, not documents.
  • Because words often have no printed record, you tackle documentable (e.g. financial) crimes first, and then the sexier testimonial ones.
  • Registration, false statements, and failure to file charges are "easy" to prove assuming basic underlying facts and some key documents.
  • Just so, assuming access to foreign bank records and perhaps a "black" ledger or two, conspiracy to launder money is *less* testimonial.
  • So a prosecutor in this situation would follow documented crimes—i.e. less testimonial—in order to compel a defendant to new testimony.
  • That Mueller is able to start with the President's Campaign Manager—rather than some peon—means he is that much closer to getting Trump.
  • We mustn't forget that in a case in which evidence is *scarce* a prosecutor would have to start *much* lower on the chain than Manafort.

Abramson next breaks down the what, why and interconnectedness of Manafort’s alleged money laundering and other financial misdeeds with Trump-Russia. Here’s a sampling:

  • Were this just a financial crimes investigation, such tactics wouldn't likely be used. But Mueller wants Manafort for something bigger.
  • Mueller was obsessive about nailing Manafort on these charges—and will be obsessive about a high bail—because he needs Manafort to talk.
  • Manafort is a *better* candidate to roll on Trump than Page (ideologue) or Kushner (family loyalty) because he's clearly a venal person.
  • And by bringing in two *connected* defendants (Manaford and Gates), Mueller can play them off one another—because both will be rushing to cooperate first.
  • Manafort knows that if Mueller thinks he and Gates have the same info to give on Trump, he can choose to cooperate with either of them.
  • The first thing the indictment tells us is the volume of money Manafort brought in as a foreign agent was huge—$75 million (2006-2015).
  • Months ago I said that a venal man like Manafort would only work for Trump "for free" if he was getting paid from elsewhere—now we know.
  • While the indictment's date range ends pre-2016—when Manafort came on the campaign—he may have been paid "in advance" to handle Trump.
  • Certainly, all these payments occurred while Manafort lived in Trump Tower, was close to Trump associates, and may have known the POTUS.
  • Secondly, note that this is a "speaking indictment"—Mueller deliberately chose to recite not just the charges but the facts behind them.
  • This helps us see that Manafort was lobbying the United States, here at home, on behalf of a now-gone Putin-backed Ukrainian government.
  • Recall, too, Manafort once made a more direct offer to Putin's government to help it advance its interests abroad. Well, he did so here.
  • I'm telling you now—the chances this work on behalf of Putin's interests isn't in any way related to Manafort's work with Trump is zero.
  • It was clear to Putin in 2013 that Trump, if he ran, would be pro-Russia (via the Agalarovs). Manafort was indirectly aiding Putin then.

Abramson then explains why Michael “Lock Her Up” Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, wasn’t part of Monday’s proceedings. “The answer is that either there's a sealed indictment on Mike Flynn the media doesn't know about—unlikely—or Flynn has already flipped.”

He also states that the indictment of co-conspirators could last another two- to five months, with Flynn, Carter Page and Jared Kushner next in line.

Abramson gets into more detail on Manafort’s influence over the Trump campaign, including the effort to alter the official GOP platform to reflect Putin’s stance toward the Ukraine ...

  • Manafort, Kushner, and Don say they never told Trump that Kremlin agents had reached out to them. But that was almost certainly a lie.
  • If Manafort confirms he told Trump of the Kremlin outreach—and Trump lied about that repeatedly thereafter—Trump enters the conspiracy.
  • This is especially true given Papadopoulos had revealed himself to Trump as a Kremlin agent seeking a Trump-Kremlin channel on March 31.
  • The point here is a Manafort roll almost *immediately* implicates Trump, and it's clear that's what Mueller is after with these charges.
  • When the news broke that former Trump foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos already had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Abramson when into overdrive in his analyses.
  • Papadopoulos met a Russian national to set up a Kremlin channel for Trump on 3/24/16. It now seems clear he told Trump this on 3/31/16.
  • This means Trump ordered a GOP platform change to benefit Russia *pre-hacking* and *after* being told the Kremlin wanted a relationship.
  • That is to say, it now seems release of the DNC emails was a quid pro quo from Trump ordering Gordon to change the GOP platform 3/31/16.
  • If Trump ordered the GOP platform change after Papadopoulos laid out the Kremlin's interest in him—and he did—collusion has been proven.
  • I said this before—that the GOP platform change was *provably* collusion—but *now* we know Mueller has that witness in his back pocket.
  • The Papadopoulos plea is BIGGER than the Manafort indictment—at least for the moment. Anyone who knows about Trump-Russia will say so.
  • If Papadopoulos was developed by the Kremlin beginning 3/14/16, how did a kid with no credentials get on the NatSec team *before* that?
  • Someone recommended Papadopoulos to Trump and/or Clovis (who assembled the NatSec team) and Millian admits to contact with Papadopoulos.
  • If Papadopoulos was the Trump-Kremlin intermediary, Millian seems to be claiming he was the intermediary between Papadopoulos and Trump.
  • If so, given Millian's known ties to the Kremlin, it further underscores how *early* in the 2016 campaign Trump knew Russia was helping.
  • Back to Papadopoulos: if he knew of Russian crimes in April '16, who did he tell? Did he aid/abet concealing these crimes? It matters.
  • It matters because the reason to think Papadopoulos is a cooperating individual is because the feds appear to have *undercharged him*.
  • One of the few reasons a prosecutor would knowingly undercharge a defendant—especially in a case like this—is if they're cooperating.

Abramson goes on:

  • Those lies increase exponentially the chance Sessions will face perjury charges. It also explains why he hasn't been interviewed yet.
  • To be clear, if you understand how the Trump NatSec team worked—and didn't work—you now see Sessions is a *target* of the Mueller probe.
  • Media should go back and look at the Reuters report on an April Kushner-Kislyak call that—key—Kushner denies though the IC confirms it.
  • So *days* after Trump learns Russia wants to meet with him, his son-in-law calls the Russian ambassador? Then he goes to the Mayflower?
  • I want to make a perhaps obvious point: were Trump not a narcissist, we might expect him to resign the presidency this week. He's done.
  • No tweets by Trump since the Papadopoulos news. Want to underscore how close to his political end Trump is now.

Head here to read Abramson’s full thread yesterday and here for his newest tweets, including a breakdown on why he thinks Papalopoulos likely wore an FBI wire for 90-plus days. Abramson is one of the best commentators going right now. You'll be glad you checked him out.

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