The office of special counsel, like that of the special prosecutor in days (and administrations) of yore, is a strange one. Not mentioned in the Constitution, it is institutionally slippery. An executive branch position designed to investigate the executive branch — there is no way it cannot be . . . “problematic.”
Just in time for Halloween, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with looking into the Russian connections of the Trump administration — particularly electoral mischief* — landed his first fish this week, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. The two have been charged with, and pled innocent to, twelve criminal counts related to their activities in Ukraine before their association with Trump. There are tax dodging charges, too, including something called “conspiracy to commit money laundering.”
And while the whole bizarre Russia story has now launched into a feeding frenzy, it appears that it just became . . . mundane. “Legal experts said the court filings indicate Mueller is running a serious, deliberative, and far-sighted inquiry,” says The Atlantic.
Meanwhile, the weird relations between the Clintons and Russia loom on the horizon, rather like that smoky monster from the Upside Down on Stranger Things 2.
But hey, none of this is shocking. Troll through the modern state and you will find corruption. You can land all sorts of fish.
Could we be those suckers?
Since this sort of thing can always be found — and the Manafort skullduggery seems somewhat tangential to Russian electoral influence, despite the man having served a stint as Trump’s campaign manager — is this just a way to get us to look the other direction from anything really meaningful?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
*And let’s not pretend this is new. Foreign influence was an issue in the campaign of 1800.