Mueller’s initial revelations singe, not burn

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On the roster: Mueller’s initial revelations singe, not burn – Kelly: ‘Let the legal justice system work’ – Bipartisan blowback for Facebook, Twitter – GOP may phase in tax cuts over five years – Boss blanches at bathroom bobcat
Washington is still gnawing on Monday’s criminal charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller like an Everlasting Gobstopper.

But in truth, there isn’t much more nutrition to be obtained that hasn’t already been extracted. 

Two senior Trump campaign officials got lit up for alleged shady dealings with Russia prior to their work for now-President Trump. One lower-level campaign official pleaded guilty this summer and seems to have been working for the prosecution prior to Monday’s announcement. 

We have no way to know how many days or weeks or months it will take to put all that in perspective. It is equally reasonable to suggest that this is the fizzle of a wet wick as it is to say that it is the smoldering punk that will be applied to a powerful rocket. 

We cannot help but wonder, even when wondering is fruitless. But what may be fruitful, though, is to consider what success or failure would look like so that we are able to recognize it when we get there. 

There is now a second known instance in which individuals associated with the Trump campaign were eager to receive “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from sources known to be connected to the Kremlin. 

But, to be fair, we could say almost the same thing about the Clinton campaign, which financed and subcontracted a dirt-digging expedition by a firm with its own Kremlin ties.

Team Trump may have acted in an amateurish fashion, but both sides have bragged about their willingness to use Kremlin crud to win an election. We may lament this moment as Americans, but so be it. 

There is also a suggestion that the Trump campaign may have had foreknowledge of the hacking of Clinton campaign emails by Russian operatives. This would take us into the realm of a citizen’s duty to report criminal misconduct. If you knew that one of your country’s foes was engaging in what is tantamount to cyberwarfare, what is your obligation to inform authorities? 

But even if someone in or around the campaign knew about the Boris and Natasha bit, it would probably be a matter of passing political consequence. 

As we have discussed many times before, Trump’s success was predicated on the intense loyalty of a relatively small number of supporters. It’s fair to point out that Trump’s support was already in a trough before Monday’s bombshells, but it would also be wise to remember that Trump wasn’t that much more popular than he is now on the day he won the presidency. 

It’s probably safe to say that a revelation like Russia tipping off campaign staffers to hacked emails or even the timing of their leaks is priced in to Trump’s current levels of support. Provided that Trump himself was not aware, such a revelation would likely be greeted with little surprise, even if served with copious amounts of outrage. 

What would be ruinous for Trump, however, would not be the revelation that Russia had helped him, but that his campaign had helped Russia. And on that count, there was no evidence of malfeasance.

What worries Republicans in Washington is the possibility that someone in Trump’s employ or orbit provided information to Russian operatives to coordinate attacks. If any American provided polling data or strategic advice to help Russia’s hack attacks on election officials or to target fake news dumps, it would be hard for even the most cynical or craven Republicans to stand by their man. 

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