Beyond the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, special counsel Robert Mueller sent a more powerful signal to others around the president with the public release of a plea deal with low-level loyalist George Papadopoulos, which was full of details about the former foreign policy adviser’s email traffic to high-ranking campaign officials about a “request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump,” Politico reports. “In unsealing it, he knows he’s sending messages to at least three or four other operatives and their lawyers that he’s got somebody in his corner who could be damaging to their interests,” said Randall Samborn, a special counsel in the George W. Bush era. Solomon Wisenberg, also a former special prosecutor, said Mueller’s opening moves demonstrated the probe has been “moving quickly” thanks in part to work he inherited before his appointment. Manafort and Gates are on track for a trial that begins nine to 16 months from now.
President Trump himself reacted to the indictments via his favorite platform: Twitter. There, he riled up his supporters by noting Mueller’s charges involve actions pre-dating the 2016 campaign, all the while turning the tables back on his Democratic nemesis. “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????” Trump posted Monday, adding a few moments later, “…Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” Former prosecutors said Mueller made a smart strategic decision by waiting until Monday to release the Papadopoulos plea, which signals legal exposure to anyone who was in contact with the foreign policy aide during the campaign as well as people who were in touch with him in more recent months without knowing he was cooperating with investigators.