I’ve enlisted a couple of friends to go down the Russia scandal rabbit hole with me for the next couple of weeks. Having been unable to find a centralized account of everything known and everything alleged, we’ve decided to make one ourselves.
Our preliminary organizational work is turning up a reasonably straightforward story amidst all the weirdness: Paul Manafort is a direct link between the campaign and a dizzying tangle of sketchy Russians, and since the summer Roger Stone has been telling anyone who will listen that he has a back-channel to Wikileaks. If any hard evidence of coordination is going to come out, it’s likely going to be related to those two. I’m going to predict at the outset that we will not end up discovering that Trump is some sort of deep-cover Russian mole. This isn’t an octopus, it’s a bucket of eels. There isn’t going to be a continuous plot because there is no continuity of participants. The bucket of eels is fascinating on its own— there are all sorts of other interconnected questionable characters in the regime’s orbit who manage to turn the whole mess into what a certain webcomic artist once called a double Mobius reacharound— but most of the connections are probably not very important. We already know that Trump has a history with the Russian mob, and we’ll likely find out that he has a history of all manner of inappropriate contacts with people in the Russian intelligence services, but that does not mean that he is aware that these people are members of the Russian intelligence services. We may also find out that he’s being blackmailed, through his financial entanglements or maybe through lifestyle stuff, although it’s hard to envision what would embarrass him.
I’ll also soon be moving to a squalid apartment filled with newspaper cuttings and red string.