Americans should steel themselves for what is to come in the Russian interference saga, because it’s just starting to get real. Months of investigative work by Special Counsel Robert Mueller resulted Monday in indictments against former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and deputy Richard Gates. A third figure, Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, has admitted lying to FBI agents about his Russian contacts and efforts to arrange meetings between the Russian government and the campaign, and has been quietly cooperating with Mueller’s team for months.
The charges against Manafort and Gates are allegations, not yet proven, but they are serious and deserving of thorough investigation. Republicans in Congress are wrong to attempt to limit such efforts, as are those who have urged Mueller to step down. It is Mueller’s investigation that may restore some measure of credibility to a political system that has taken a beating in recent months.
What is vital now is that Mueller and his investigators continue their work, tuning out the pressure on both sides to reach some preordained conclusion. Americans may learn some unpleasant facts about the rough-and-tumble of campaigns, and may yet be surprised by turns of events.
One surprise came Monday to Democrats, who were stunned at the resignation of Democratic lobbying giant Tony Podesta from his firm. Podesta’s resignation was the result of his coming under the scrutiny of investigators, although details are not yet known. Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, former campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton.
Mueller and his team have a difficult task. They are obliged to go where the facts take them, investigate every lead, check every loophole. The noise of today’s political climate, vastly amplified by the nonstop thrum of social media and those paid to inflame passions on all sides, is hard to tune out. Worse, there is the chance that pressure will build to the point where resources fade and Mueller is unable to be as diligent as necessary. It is imperative that Attorney General Jeff Sessions give Mueller what he needs to keep going and that Congress support this.
This country needs Mueller’s investigation. Not as a means to oust an unpopular president. It is far too early to know whether it will ever come to that. No, Americans need this investigation as a bracing reminder that the great leveler in this republic is the rule of law, and that no one is above it. This country is straying dangerously close to a “cult of personality,” in which political leaders are deified and facts are of no consequence.
We urge Minnesota’s congressional representatives — in both parties — to fully support the investigations underway and to make clear to the Justice Department and the president that interference will not be tolerated.