The Russia-Trump investigation has drawn first blood; the Paradise Papers exposed a prominent Trump Cabinet member; and the threat of North Korea continues to loom over the administration. There’s almost too much to take in.
Let’s break it down one-by-one. Who will be first to end up behind bars when Robert Mueller is done? Does Trump have a future in the White House? Will the Paradise Papers snare another Trump cabinet member? And what’s next for North Korea?
Let’s take a deep dive into the odds!
George Papadopoulos: 4/1
Paul Manafort: 17/3
Rick Gates: 17/3
Michael Flynn: 9/1
Michael Flynn Jr.: 19/1
Jared Kushner: 25/1
Donald Trump Jr.: 30/1
Jeff Sessions: 50/1
Last week, Robert Mueller and the Special Counsel investigating Russian election meddling made their first big move, indicting Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates. It was also revealed on the same day that George Papadopoulos, a former Trump adviser, had pleaded guilty to making false statements regarding his contacts with the Russian government. Those are the three names to watch at the moment. Having already pleaded guilty, Papadopoulos could be the first Trump-connected person to go to prison. He has been actively cooperating with the investigation and has settled for a plea bargain, which could grant him some leniency when it comes to sentencing. He faces up to five years in prison, though the prosecution has agreed to seek zero to six months.
Meanwhile, both Manafort and Gates chose to stand their ground and fight. Both have pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements, and failure to report offshore bank accounts. None of these crimes relate directly to the Trump-Russia investigation, but they could still lead to jail time.
The investigation now seems to be zeroing in on Mike Flynn, who served a brief stint as Trump’s National Security Adviser. Mueller reportedly has enough evidence to bring charges against him, so it may only be a matter of time before he’s indicted as well. Like Manafort and Gates, Flynn failed to to register as a foreign agent and has made false statements. Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr, has also been swept up in the mess and could also go down alongside his father.
Then there are the two Trump kids in hot water, Don Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Both were present with Manafort when they met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who purportedly offered dirt on Clinton. Things seem to be getting worse for Jr. and Kushner by the day, but they have the advantage of being close to Trump. The President could issue a round of pardons or destroy the investigation in order to save his kids.
For now, I would focus on Papadopoulos, Manafort, and Gates. The Special Counsel has already made its first move and a prison sentence could be looming on the horizon.
Donald Trump’s approval rating may be low, hovering around the mid- to high-30s, but his numbers are pretty stable. Before the Mueller bombshell, Trump was polling at around 35% according to Gallup. In the two polls since, he’s risen to 39% and 37%. Regardless of what the general population thinks of him, he still holds the unyielding support of the Republican base. In fact, Trump has consistently held an approval rating of over 80% when it comes to registered Republicans.
What does this mean for his chances of impeachment? Put simply: As long as the Republicans control Congress, Donald can rest easy.
The 2018 midterms could change everything, though. All 435 seats in the House and a third of the Senate will be up for grabs and the Democrats are polling significantly better at the moment. But there’s still a long way to go and we can’t rule out another Democratic implosion.
Even with a Democrat-led House, impeachment is still unlikely. When pressed on the issue, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said: “It’s not some place that I think we should go.”
If the Mueller investigation uncovers clean-cut evidence of collusion, or if Trump pulls a Nixon and Saturday Night Massacres his way through the Special Counsel, then we could see a spike in the odds. For now, impeachment has relatively long odds.
Speaking of long odds…
No one should be surprised if a Trump staffer ultimately ends up behind bars, and there’s a real chance that some people very close to the President could be locked up, as well. But the President himself? That’s a bit of a stretch.
No president has ever been successfully impeached, let alone jailed. It’s still unclear whether it’s even possible to indict a sitting President. If it ever happens — and that’s a huge “if” — we should expect it to happen well after his term is over.
The Paradise Papers, leaked documents relating to the offshore investments of the world’s mega-wealthy, have snared quite a few high-profile names. They have shone a light on the murky financial practices of the President of Colombia, three former Canadian Prime Ministers, and even Her Majesty The Queen.
Naturally, the Trump administration hasn’t emerged unscathed. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, was found to have financial ties with Russian oligarchs and Putin’s son-in-law. The leaks prove that he did not disclose the full extent of the holdings prior to his confirmation, which is, to say the least, frowned upon. Of course, Ross has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has no intention of leaving his post.
The Trump administration is the wealthiest in the history of the United States. Ross may be the only name explicitly mentioned, but there’s a good chance there will be others in the administration tangled up in this web.
A meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un would be more bizarre than anything SNL could dream up, and it’s actually a real possibility. Trump claims to be willing to meet with the North Korean dictator, though he also added: “We’ll see where it goes. I think we’re far too early.”
North Korea was on the State Department’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” but was removed by George W. Bush after the country met the nuclear inspection requirements. Currently, the list consists of just three nations — Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Now that Kim Jong-Un is actively seeking a nuclear weapon, the decision needs to be rethought. Citing the killing of Jong-Un’s half-brother as an act of terrorism, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster is seriously considering returning North Korea to the list.
Photo credit: Donkey Hotey (Flickr) CC License
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