Wednesday, November 01, 2017

TOP STORY >> Protecting rule of law essential

Leader publisher and editor-in-chief

The two indictments and a guilty plea Monday in Robert Mueller’s widening probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election has silenced just about every Republican in Congress.

As far as we know, there’s been no reaction from our congressional delegation or even Vice President Mike Pence, although they may be working behind the scenes with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to shut down the special counsel’s office.

Maybe we missed a Republican or two speaking out in behalf of the embattled president, but I don’t think so. Perhaps Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attack in lower Manhattan on a group of pedestrians will make us focus on a more immediate threat.

The president insists there was no collusion with the Russians and says Paul Manafort’s money laundering and tax evasion occurred long before he became Trump’s campaign manager.

But Special Counsel Mueller’s team insists the $17 million money-laundering scheme continued long after Manafort quit the campaign last summer. He is also accused of conspiracy against the United States, which sounds like treason.

Rick Gates, his partner in the alleged money laundering scheme with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, also was charged Monday. They pleaded not guilty and are under house arrest after posting bonds of $5 million to $10 million.

Although Republicans in Congress have gone AWOL on the Mueller indictments, pro-Trump media insist the investigation should instead focus on Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the so-called Trump dossier gathered by a former British spy in Moscow.

They also want an investigation into the sale of U.S. uranium reserves to Russian interests. Mueller and Con-gress should look into both issues. A complete review into the dossier, which was first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans and later by Democrats should prove interesting. Although the uranium reserves cannot be exported to Russia, the U.S. could void that sale and ban Russians from owning any assets in our country.

Let’s also include the seizure of all Russian-owned condominiums in Trump buildings acquired through money-laundering schemes like the ones Manafort is charged with. Those funds were stolen from the Russian people by Putin’s Mafia state, which controls all business transactions and takes a 40 percent cut of the all the dirty proceeds, which are then money laundered around the world.

Kicking the Russians out would be proper retribution for Putin’s meddling in our election. He’s a petty tyrant, a thief and a pederast. His inner circle appears stunned that their plot against America has unraveled, but there’s still a long way to go.

George Papadopolous, the Trump campaign’s go-between with the Russians, pleaded guilty Monday to lying to the FBI and is rumored to have been wired by the special counsel in his conversations with former colleagues.

Investigators may never get to the bottom of the plot without interviewing the Russian side, although there could be defections from there to round out the story. Manafort and Gates could also be considering cooperating, unless they think they can expect a full pardon from Trump. Former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, another key target, has not been heard from in months and could also flip like Papadopolous.

Sam Clovis, who’s been nominated for a top scientific post at the Agriculture Department and is said to have supervised Papadopolous in his contacts with the Russians, is said to be cooperating with a Senate committee, which sounds like he’s also talking to Mueller.

Mueller could soon wind up his investigation since he knows his tenure could end any day. It appears he’s gathered plenty of information in just a few months. The President should let Mueller finish his investigation and have his name cleared.

Here’s hoping he’ll go wherever the evidence takes him. But beyond the indictments, we must ensure that our votes aren’t hacked next year because the Russians will be back.