Oct 31, 2017

The Russia reckoning

Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump join Rick Gates (center) and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort (back) at the Republican National Convention in 2016. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

In yesterday's historic crush of news, we saw early hints of the coming political and corporate reckoning for Russian interference in the 2016 election:

The takeaway: For the White House, the most worrisome part of the Manafort indictment is that Mueller showed he's willing to delve deeply into personal financial matters as part of his Russia probe.

  • Just before 8 a.m.., media bulletins say former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, 68, and his business associate Rick Gates, 45, have been told to surrender.
  • At 9:01 a.m., Mueller's office announces indictment of Manafort and Gates.
  • At 10:14 a.m., Mueller's office announces guilty plea of low-level Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, 30, for making false statements to FBI agents. Reading between the lines of the indictment, legal commentators quickly conclude Papadopoulos may have been wearing a wire in recent months.
  • At 10:25 a.m., Trump tweets: "Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????"
  • At 10:28 a.m., Trump adds: "....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!"
  • Just after 6 p.m., in time for the network newscasts, leaks surface of the Facebook statement for today's congressional hearing: "Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served one of their stories at some point during the two-year period."
  • Then Google's: "On YouTube, we did find 18 channels on YouTube with roughly 1,100 videos, a total of 43 hours of content, uploaded by individuals who we suspect are associated with [the Russian] effort."
  • And Twitter's: "[W]e identified 36,746 accounts that generated automated, election-related content and had at least one of the characteristics we used to associate an account with Russia."

Be smart: There is zero doubt — and piles of new evidence — that Russia manipulated our election. This next phase will show if Trump himself was aware or involved, or has any interest in doing anything about it — and how extensively America's most powerful companies enabled the mass manipulation.

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