Mueller’s investigation and Trump’s distraction

Amid first charges in Robert Mueller’s investigation President Donald Trump and his allies are clearly focusing on Hillary Clinton and her alleged misdeeds. How do you read this behavior and how important do you find that we might move into the indictment phase of Mueller’s investigation? Read few comments.

Steffen Schmidt, Lucken Endowed Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

Paul Manafort may be charged with tax evasion or failing to inform that he was working for Ukrainian politicians. BUT, in the end he is being pressured with whatever charges to try and get a smaller sentence in exchange for revealing information about potential Trump & his children & associates conspiring with Russia in the 2016 election. President Trump is the principal target of all these actions.

The Republicans and especially President Trump and his team have been anxious to divert attention from the Mueller investigation and Congressional hearings that may start soon on the 2016 elections and Russia’s involvement. So they have found some interesting bits and pieces regarding the Democrats and their interest in finding “dirt” (incriminating information) about Donald Trump and his campaign by paying a firm in Washington to find such information.

The MOST bizarre thing is that Trump and the Republicans who WON the presidency are still attacking Hillary Clinton who LOST the election! It suggests that there is a lot of insecurity in Team Trump. The public opinion poll numbers do show Trump politically sinking slowly.

This of course, is a diversion – deflection- but it has changed the news coverage to some extent. However, the Mueller investigation will continue and Today (Monday) there  may be information released about someone who has been indicted (formally charged for a serious crime) by a Grand Jury and so the focus will again be on Mueller’s team and their digging for possible criminal behavior in the 2016 elections. I have no inside information on who will be charged but it seems most likely that it will be Paul Manafort (consultant and previous Trump campaign), former national security adviser Michael Flynn, or one of the other Trump associated who seem to be communicating with the Russians.

Some Republicans are  calling for Mueller to resign. What has been VERY surprising is that some prominent Republicans (including Chris Christie, Gov of New Jersey who is in the Trump team) also have been clearly saying that President Trump needs to allow Mueller complete his investigation therefore suppressing talk that Trump may fire Mueller or immediately pardon whoever is charged. This send a signal that Trump needs to be very careful to NOT “do a Richard Nixon” and open himself to a potential Constitutional crisis and possibly his impeachment.

Steven Greene, Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

Honestly, this is pretty classic “whataboutism.” What’s disturbing/distressing is how a Republican party and Republican media (i.e., Fox, talk radio) can push an idea so relentlessly that objective mainstream media (e.g., NYT, you) feel the need to cover it even when the evidence is absolutely clear there is just no there there. This just serves to muddy the waters for 1) extreme partisans who will believe whatever Fox tells them, and 2) those who pay only modest attention to the news and see there’s talk about Hillary Clinton and Russia and don’t realize there’s not actually a legitimate story there. Over the weekend, it was effective. And it will probably continue to be effective with Trump’s basis. But with the indictment of Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, it is hard to see how a disingenuous obsession with Hillary Clinton can make all that much difference. The real question/problem for American democracy now is how other Republicans will respond to Trump’s (largely false) attempts to discredit Mueller and his investigation.

Gennady RudkevichAssistant Professor, Department of Government & Sociology, Georgia College & State University

Trump and his allies in government and the media are appealing to Republican voters. They know that as long as those voters support Trump, the Republican Party will have no choice but to do the same. As long as the GOP supports Trump, it can stall House and Senate intelligence investigations. In the long run, GOP is support is necessary for Trump to avoid impeachment.

Most people assumed Manafort was involved in illegal activity. While this indictment is important, what matters is what happens next. Will Manafort cooperate with the FBI and give up his co-conspirators? Will other (former) officials be charged?

Robert Y. ShapiroProfessor, Political Science, Columbia University

This is their typical response to deflect the issue to the opposition party. They are still harking back to the election. It is also a way to play to Trump’s base of support for whom Trump can be blamed for nothing important and it is the Democrates — and still Hillary Clinton — who are guilty of greater misdeeds. All of which is typically not comparable or blatantly false. Now more than ever they need to respond to rally Trump’s base of support not only against the Democrats but also mainstream Republican leaders.

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