From a TPM Reader …
As a former federal prosecutor, it seems to me that there are several angles to Mueller’s strategy with the timing of these announcements.
The most obvious is the effort to squeeze Manafort. Prosecutors indict lower level co-conspirators to get them to flip on their higher level counterparts all day long. The slightly more subtle dynamic is to put Manafort on an island, and let him see those he is protecting cut him loose and distance themselves from him. This will weaken his willingness to hang in and protect others. I think the timing of the release of the Papadopolous plea is designed to press another lever – it lets Manafort know that there is more to the case than the money laundering, and this is going to get a lot worse for him if he doesn’t cooperate. All of these moves are intended to bring maximum pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the investigation.
While I agree that the Papadopoulos plea had the effect of blindsiding Trump, I don’t think that was the primary goal of the timing of its release. What Trump tweets doesn’t matter to Mueller. He has his sights set on Manafort and getting him to flip.