There were two big reveals today.
The first was the Papadopolous guilty plea. The Manafort/Gates indictments were highly significant. But they were broadly expected and do not connect directly to the Russian interference campaign. Papadopolous was the big thing we did not know yesterday which we do know today.
The second big reveal is the fact that the White House and Trump’s lawyers were completely blindsided by the Papadopolous news. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had to fall back on having agreed to appear on CNN on short notice to explain why he seemed to have no argument or spin to provide about Papadopolous’s admissions.
Sarah Sanders’ briefing was similar. She repeated talking points that were clearly devised in expectation of indictments for financial crimes by people like Paul Manafort. She appeared to be on autopilot based on instructions from early in the morning and had no ability to devise an argument in response to Papadopolous’s admissions.
These revelations have major legal significance. But there’s a separate impact on the White House, the trajectory of its political operations and how key staffers and supporters are thinking about their own legal vulnerability. The White House clearly did not know this was coming. They were expecting (as I and many others were) financial crimes by campaign officials but not charges or pleas tied directly to Russian interference.
The White House was already aggressively, furiously pushing the Uranium One diversion. They were angry, panicked but they had a plan. This upsets their understanding of what’s happening. I would expect a lot of new internal turbulence in the Trump world growing from this. I’d expect more mutual suspicion and an uncertainty about how to move forward.
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