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Insiders Say Trump Fumed Over Russia Indictments

DC is braced for Mueller's next step
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2017 5:39 AM CDT
Updated Oct 31, 2017 5:45 AM CDT
Washington Braces for Mueller's Next Step
Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – President Trump handed candy out to trick-or-treaters Monday night after a day that spooked both Republicans and Democrats. Robert Mueller's escalation of the Russia probe with the indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and deputy Rick Gates has left Democrats worried that Trump could shut down the investigation and Republicans worried that legislative plans including tax reform could be set aside, the Washington Post reports. Analysts say Mueller is likely to bring more charges, and the ones already announced could cause legal battles that will last into 2019. "We are in a real testing time for democracy," says Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann. "You really have to go back to Watergate to find anything of this scope and dimension." The latest developments:

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  • A "one-two punch." Insiders tell Politico that the White House was prepared for the indictments of Manafort and Gates, but was taken off guard by the second part of Mueller's one-two punch: the news that former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had cut a plea deal and admitted that he lied to the FBI about outreach to Russians during the campaign.
  • Clinton reaction. Asked about developments Monday night, Hillary Clinton said she would leave it up to investigators to decide whether there was collusion, but it is already clear that Trump is "abdicating his responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend our national security interests," CBS News reports. "We know everything we need to know, we just have to make sure that members of Congress do their jobs and hold the president accountable," she said.
  • The "real scandal." White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Trump's tweets Monday by insisting that the "real collusion scandal" is "everything to do with the Clinton campaign, the Hill reports. She said it was too early in the process to discuss possible presidential pardons for Manafort and Gates.

  • Fuming. Insiders tell the Washington Post that Trump fumed over media coverage of events early Monday, while staffers became increasingly anxious. The insiders say Trump initially felt vindicated when the indictments of Manafort and Gates related to events before his campaign, but his anger grew after the Papadopoulos plea was disclosed. "The walls are closing in," one senior Republican says. "Everyone is freaking out."
  • Pride before a fall. The New York Times looks at how ambition—and a desire to be paid millions he was owed by pro-Russia interests he worked for in Ukraine—ended up being Manafort's downfall. Insiders say he hoped to raise his profile by working as Trump's campaign manager, but the position ended up attracting attention to his overseas work. Manafort and Gates are now accused of violating lobbying, tax, and banking laws.
  • Stiff prison terms. The AP reports that Manafort and Gates could face very long prison sentences if found guilty on all counts, with Manafort facing up to 80 years in prison and Gates facing a maximum of 70. Both are accused of laundering money, with around $75 million flowing through accounts controlled by the two men.

  • Another special prosecution? White House Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared on Fox News on Monday and called for another special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton over a uranium deal with Russia that happened while she was secretary of State, the Los Angeles Times reports. He said Trump finds the Mueller probe "distracting." "It should wrap up soon," he said. "It would seem that they’re toward the end of the witness pile."
  • "Mueller is moving fast." In an interview with Politico, Preet Bharara, former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, declined to say whether he, too, was investigating Trump when he was fired earlier this year. He did say, however, that he believes the "George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously."
(Read more Robert Mueller stories.)

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