Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is not dead and it is getting worse for President Donald Trump.
News broke Friday night about new charges filed in the Russia investigation, headed by former FBI director and appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The case, which focuses on members of the Trump campaign and whether they colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election, was relatively quiet for weeks.
As the story developed, it was revealed that Trump’s former campaign chair was charged with several counts of lying under oath about contact with Russians.
He was also charged with counts of money laundering, which is unrelated to the campaign.
However, those charges are still crucial to his status as a possible lead to exhuming further evidence on the Trump campaign’s intended collusion with Russia.
As Mueller aggressively pursues Manafort, the question popping up in the heads of those closely following the investigation is … why?
While Manafort was the campaign chair, his time spent actually working with Trump was short.
If the investigation is about getting to the truth, why focus on a man whose shady business practices began and ended with his own personal gain?
The answer, from former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti in an Oct. 30 article from Vox, was simple — they want to flip him.
Mariotti served as a federal prosecutor from 2007 to 2016.
He believes Mueller’s team honing in on Manafort suggests two things.
The first is they have a well-built, airtight case against him.
Second, Mueller’s team most likely believes Manafort has incriminating information about other people under investigation, possibly even Trump or his children.
By increasing the pressure on Manafort, Mariotti believes Mueller is engaging in a “divide and conquer” strategy.
“It’s always the case that prosecutors seek to magnify and exploit the conflicts between the different people that they’re looking at,” said Mariotti. “That’s a pretty common prosecutorial strategy. And it appears to be working based on the latest reports we’ve seen.”
The president seems to be feeling the pressure, with Donald Trump tweeting up a storm on Oct. 29 and 30.
He first seemed to try and draw the attention away from him by bringing up Obamacare premiums, then, in a matter of several minutes, switched topics to Hillary Clinton.
The next day, he vaguely directed attention toward the investigation, only to try and discredit the charges against Manafort and question whether they were even relevant.
As the investigation aggregates more critical witnesses and testimony, we can only assume that Trump’s temperament will become more and more unstable. And Trump has the right to be scared.
What has kept Trump and his associates together so far is relatively consistent unity between those being interviewed by Mueller in the investigation.
If Mueller continues targeting the weak links, like Manafort, he will eventually break the chain, allowing evidence to flow forth.
The timing is also impeccable, as Trump begins to break pace with those who probably would have had his back before he publicly humiliated them.
Individuals like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might not need all that much pressure to turn on Trump.
After all, if the president were to step down in light of a conviction, Vice President Mike Pence would simply take his position and cabinet members would not be in risk of losing their jobs.
Ben Hummel is the Opinion Editor at The Collegian and can be reached at email@example.com.