The evidence from the special counsel’s investigation is already damning, but it must contend with a haze of lies, confusion and “alternative facts.”
After a period of quiet, the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is seizing headlines yet again. In the past week, we learned that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, broke the terms of his cooperation agreement by lying to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, all while his lawyer was briefing Mr. Trump’s legal team on what Mr. Manafort told the special counsel. The conservative author Jerome Corsi, facing possible indictment, made public a potential draft plea agreement with Mr. Mueller that contains incendiary allegations of attempted coordination between Mr. Corsi and the Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone with WikiLeaks.
We also learned that Mr. Mueller had reached a plea agreement with Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, for lying to Congress about the Trump Organization’s plans to construct a property in Moscow — plans that extended into the 2016 campaign and reportedly involved an effort to give Vladimir Putin the gift of a $50 million penthouse apartment.
Mr. Mueller’s team has given no hint of what’s to come next. The National Archives’ recent unsealing of a “road map” by the Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski — provided to Congress in 1974 to inform potential impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon — has fueled speculation on what a Mueller report might look like, but the question remains: Just where is all this going?
From the day the Mueller investigation began, opponents of the president have hungered for that report, or an indictment waiting just around the corner, as the source text for an incantation to whisk Mr. Trump out of office and set everything back to normal again. The evidence that the special counsel has so far made public is damning enough. Yet even as the investigation seems to gather momentum, it has become increasingly clear that whatever findings Mr. Mueller reaches will be only a small piece of a much larger political puzzle.
The special counsel’s office has already produced a hefty pile of evidence. The indictments of a Russian “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency and of Russian military intelligence officers involved in the hacking of Democratic Party emails told a detailed story of a Russian effort to stir up American political passions. The documents revealed by Mr. Corsi suggest that he and Mr. Stone — who was in regular contact with Mr. Trump at the time — might have known in advance of planned releases by WikiLeaks of hacked documents.
Not enough collusion for you? Consider Mr. Cohen’s latest plea agreement. Mr. Trump defiantly tweeted in January 2017, “I have nothing to do with Russia — no deals, no loans, no nothing!” But it now seems that the Trump Organization’s efforts to establish a Trump Tower Moscow were quite involved and continued into June 2016, just before Mr. Trump was nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate. And Mr. Trump knew about it: Mr. Cohen’s plea states that he regularly briefed the Trump family on his work.