Following six long months of work, Robert S. Mueller the special counsel has indicted two of President Donald Trump’s advisers and accepted a pair of guilty pleas from another two in exchange for the cooperation of both in his probe into the meddling by Russia in last year’s election, a sign of mounting legal peril for Trump’s White House.
With the Friday guilty plea by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser and one of his most valued and closest aides, the investigation has taken in several figures with intimate knowledge of Trump’s campaign; the president elect’s transition and the White House.
The investigation appears to be quickly expanding beyond the interference by Russia during the campaign to include a host of other activities that include contacts with officials from Russia during the presidential transition and alleged laundering of money that took place well before Trump’s presidential run.
Flynn as well as George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to the presidential campaign of Trump, acknowledged they lied to the FBI related to their contacts with Russians.
Both are now cooperating with the special counsel, said prosecutors, potentially providing critical evidence against former aides of Trump.
Mueller’s quick move has left the Trump team looking for answers about up to what point might the probe eventually reach.
Along with Papadopoulos and Flynn, former campaign chairman for Trump Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his deputy, were charged with laundering money and other crimes that were related to the political consulting Manafort did in Ukraine before he joined Trump. The two have entered pleas of not guilty.
The news on Friday about the deal Flynn entered with prosecutors after the White House’s senior staff meeting, startled top officials and some felt helpless.
One adviser who often speaks to Trump said that no one knows what is really going on. The cooperation by Flynn poses risks for Trump’s White House.
Unlike Papadopoulos whose contact was minimal with top aides and met with Trump only once, Flynn was an important member of the inner circle of Trump, and considered at one time to be a nominee for vice president.
Signs have surfaced over the last few months that Trump is nervous in particular about the probability the investigations ensnared Flynn. Most believe that if anyone on Trump’s campaign was in coordination with Russians, in the effort to interfere with the presidential election, Flynn would have likely been aware.