Some major developments in the Trump-Russia saga have been simmering and could soon come to a rolling boil.
The first, and biggest, is the tantalizing possibility of a Rick Gates flip in the near future. CNN is reporting that Gates is entering the final stages of negotiations on a plea agreement with Robert Mueller and his team. He has already sat down with Mueller and the rest of the legal team and told them what he knows. He has hired an attorney that has worked with Mueller frequently and is known for hammering out plea deals. His legal defense fund(raiser) was a bust and he didn’t have enough collateral to post bail. He has four young children. Those factors make this decision somewhat unsurprising.
The second major development was the report of the depth of Steve Bannon’s conversation with Robert Mueller. It reportedly lasted over 20 hours over the course of several days and Bannon was fully cooperative. This comes in sharp contrast to Bannon’s behavior before Congress, where he has cited dubious legal precedent to avoid answering questions. It’s a smart strategy though: Bannon has to figure that anything he tells partisan hacks like Devin Nunes will make their way back to the White House and would dampen his ability to inflict a blow upon Trump.
So what happens after Rick Gates flips? When’s the next move? The investigation feels as though it is in a weird limbo state at the moment, as if it could drag on forever or wrap up with a mass indictment any day now.
The most obvious path to prosecutions at this point seems like it still runs through Paul Manafort. Gates’ testimony will no doubt put pressure on the already financially strained Manafort to cooperate with Mueller and flip on Trump. Gates knows everything about Manafort’s activities and Manafort knows, among other things related to Russia, what went down in that Trump Tower meeting between the Russians, Donald Trump, Jr. Jared Kushner and himself and how that might legally implicate Trump in some (Steve Bannon’s words) “treasonous, bad shit.”
We will soon find out whether that will be the path taken.