Yesterday’s entry was an overview of the Russia investigation and where I thought it was going. I had a hard time sleeping last night. I saw that Trump was as well. I was half-expecting Sessions and Rosenstein to be fired via twitter before the day started but the news never arrived.
Before last night, it was difficult to know how things would proceed without knowing if the democrats would take the house. When it happened, I felt a great sense of calm. Trump finally had to contend with a real opposition party and the democrats were keen on protecting the Mueller investigation. Checks and balances.
So with that piece now in place, I started trying to figure out what came next. Well, Trump is fully aware of the investigative powers of the house and I suspect he’s not too happy about this. As expected, one of the first things the democrats said with respect to winning the house is that they were going to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. As soon as those returns make it to the house, there’s a good chance they’ll be leaked to the public and the inner working’s of Trump’s businesses will be available for all to see. I don’t know exactly what we’ll see, but I don’t think it’ll be good for Trump. At the very least, I expect to see ties to Russia.
Trump knows all this is coming, along with another wave of investigations that Republicans have been preparing for since August. So now he needs to make some moves. As expected, Jeff Sessions was fired today. Rosenstein is now on the way to the White House and I’m not confident in him keeping his job either. I’d like to think that whoever is selected to fill these roles will be able to prioritize country over party but I’ve since lost my confidence in Republicans being able to uphold that value. Right now, it’s looking like Jeff Sessions’s former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker will be taking over the role. Concerning as he’s called the investigation a ‘witch hunt’ and was the previous head of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a research firm which dedicated most of their resources to investigating Hillary Clinton.
So what happens after all of this? Not quite sure. It’s going to get messy for a bit, especially since the democrats don’t actually take the house until January. That’s a lot of time to influence public opinion and undermine an investigation. But I think it’ll be all for naught. The democratic house has already said that they’ll bring Mueller in for televised hearings if he’s fired. Also, if I’m not mistaken, the house can reopen the Russia probe and hire Mueller to lead it. This is why winning the house was so important.
In trying to see through to the other side last night, I saw a step further than I had before. It was a bit of an ‘oh shit’ moment. Reports are starting to surface that Trump Jr. is expecting to be indicted. Same with Roger Stone. Even Trump himself is likely named as an unindicted co-conspirator in Coen’s campaign finance violation relating to Stormy Daniels. And while each of these individuals have postured like they wouldn’t flip, I don’t see it. Those who are self-serving always flip. Doing hard time for the sake of protecting someone else is a tremendous sacrifice and these just aren’t those people. If Manafort and Coen flipped, Stone will flip. If Stone will flip, the only ones left are Trump and his family.
Most people who have been watching intently look at this story as having begun with Trump’s campaign, and assume it ends when Trump is ultimately found guilty of crimes. That was largely my perspective until last night. I was aware of what came next, but hadn’t put too much thought into it. In all likelihood, Mueller will get to Trump. And Trump will be found guilty. And then Trump will flip.
That was my big epiphany last night. Trump is not the extent of this investigation. If Trump is found to be guilty of conspiring with the Russian government to undermine America’s democracy, they’re going to run an absolute train on him. He’ll be reduced to a shadow of who he is now, and in that process, will divulge key information on everyone who assisted him the process. Think Frank Lucas from American Gangster. I suspect that will be devastating for the Republican party and would not be surprised to see some democrats get exposed as well. Perhaps even more consequential though, Trump will give up Putin.
I still don’t see a direct link between Putin and Trump, and doubt there ever was. I think that Putin had a strong preference for Trump over Hillary and saw a means of assisting Trump win the election. All Putin had to do was deploy his hackers, snag some passwords, access communication records, and release them through a 3rd party who had a reputation for legitimate leaked documents. And had Putin played it just like that, Trump would have no one to flip on. My instincts say otherwise though. My instincts say that Putin wanted dominance and influence over Trump. To get that, he made Trump look into the camera and ask for his help. Trump knows this, and I suspect Trump will eventually share this with the FBI.
So what happens to the geopolitical climate when the world’s largest nuclear super power accuses the world’s second largest nuclear super power of attempting to undermine their democracy? If calmer heads prevail, I suspect action will largely be taken in the form of severe sanctions against Russia. As Russia has been caught repeatedly trying to influence other referendums like Brexit, I suspect that the US will not be the only one looking at these options. I also expect for the leaders of some major nations to call for the resignation of Putin, putting further strain on Putin’s control of Russia.
While facing the possibility of losing power in Russia, Putin will have some important decisions to make. Severe sanctions are likely to cripple his oligarchs, a key element of how he retains his power. When the Russia people begin to feel the impact of these sanctions, and global leaders are demanding that he step down.. I think the Russian people will lose confidence. In anticipation of this, Putin will manifest some kind of last stand and I’m yet sure what that will be.
If calmer heads don’t prevail, The US will determine Russia’s attempts to undermine our democracy an act of war. With a new 700 billion dollar annual budget allocated to the military and some trigger happy cabinet members.. the US may declare war on Russia. Part of me thinks this is highly unlikely because of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and the understanding that nuclear war should be avoided at all costs. I think both Russia and the US understand the significance of this. But maybe not. Maybe it starts with troops in Ukraine for the sake of retaking Crimea. Maybe it escalates on the clandestine front. Maybe it inches forward bit by bit as each side looks to deal blows to the other without triggering a nuclear holocaust. And maybe we find ourselves back in another cold war.
Or maybe to help navigate impending sanctions, Russia starts to draw some very real lines in the sand. Maybe Russia collects some allies in North Korea, Serbia, Syria, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. You know.. countries that aren’t the biggest fans of the US. And maybe.. just maybe.. we’ve found ourselves with the backdrop for WWIII.
At this point, its far too soon to tell how this will play out. I’m always optimistic that calmer heads will prevail, but I also recognize that calm is not a natural state of mind when one is cornered. This entry wasn’t about promoting the possibility of another world war or cold war, but rather recognizing that this story doesn’t end when Trump pleads guilty. Instead, it seems to be part 1 of what is a multi-part series.