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The thing about counterintel investigations is that they sweep up conversations between minor players talking among themselves.

The folks on the edges talk to each other.

They send txts and emails and make phone calls thinking they’re outside the sphere of scrutiny.

An active counterintel investigation means the Trump Administration’s crimes were only as secure as the weakest link in their weakest moment.

We got hints of this early. Our intelligence folks picked up “signals intelligence” or SigInt from Russians talking to Russians.

Those “signals” aren’t the kind of evidence that finds its way into a courtroom. In fact, it’s important that it doesn’t. It would burn sources and methods.

It lays out the crimes and the players though... and then prosecutors find ways to make triable cases other ways.

The public sees cases for specific charges carrying significant prison time without ever knowing that the NSA and prosecutors knew so much more than they ever revealed.

Now, apply those principles to the cases we’ve seen Mueller bring forward so far.

Mike Flynn: pleaded out to a minor charge, rolled over in full and then produced five rounds of documents.

Likely: Flynn was confronted with the intel they had on him and knew he was cooked.

They knew the crimes. They heard and saw everything. There’d be no escape.

By flipping and pleading out Flynn, all of that secret intel stays secret. Our intelligence efforts are protected. And Flynn goes down. And he cooks a bunch of other gooses.

He’s savvy enough to know that once they have the intel, all that’s left to do is make the case.

That may seem a little counterintuitive. They know of the crime before they can prove it in the way they need to...

Meaning, our protecting our intel capabilities is more important than any one crime they uncover.

So, ugly though this is, crimes go unpunished sometimes.

Back to the Mueller cases brought forward so far...

Rick Gates - Paul Manafort’s righthand man and a member of Trump’s transition team:

Invariably picked up by counterintel for an array of foreign crimes which, again, would take work to turn into cases triable in public.

Again, Mueller flipped someone and pleaded them out on cases easily made with non-sensitive evidence.

Financial crimes, and tax crimes in particular, carry real prison time.

So, if the endgame is putting a guy away for 15 yrs...

...financial crimes do the trick far better than a foreign conspiracy charge.

Remember, Al Capone rotted away in prison as a dying syphilitic on tax evasion charges.

(Capone eventually died at home at 48 years old but Alcatraz pretty much did him in.)

So, again, common theme: sensitive intelligence on serious crimes turns into public prosecutions based on less-sensitive evidence.

Moving along to Paul Manafort.

Same story. A boatload of intel on serious crimes involving foreign actors. Charged w financial crimes instead.

George Papadopoulos: same theme.

Crimes only really triable using intel.

A prosecution for his role in the Trump-Russia conspiracy would be entirely dependent on things we’d rather keep secret.

So he got a deal for the weak, unrevealing charge of lying to the FBI.

If he had sat tight, he might have walked. They were never going to trial for that small a fish. They threw the fear of god into him. He buckled.

The intel folks knowing you’re guilty and being willing to burn intel to try you are very diff things.

Papa misplayed his hand.
Most importantly, what does all this mean for the rest of the gang?

1) Mueller and Co. likely fully know and understand what crimes were committed by Trump, et al.

2) They are now building prosecutable cases for a subset of them which can be tried w non-sensitive evidence.

3) As they complete that work for additional minor players on the periphery - people with valuable info or value as witnesses - he’ll ring them up with indictments and repeat the above flip & plea process.

4) In parallel, they have invariably been referring cases...

Meaning, a la the Al Capone case, Mueller is also kicking evidence over to other agencies to make prosecutable cases that put the bad guys away without burning intel.

Those cases will go on for years and put away more people than Watergate (which resulted in 48 convictions).
As for the most important players, Trump, Junior, Kushner, Erik Prince, Roger Stone, Cambridge Analytica, et al...

...the question isn’t whether they’re caught or whether they’ll be prosecuted.

The question is only what the public charges will be. HOW will they go down?

I suspect Mueller will charge as many of those as possible for crimes related to:

1) Conspiracy to interfere w the election - since enough of that evidence is public and has already burned sources/methods

2) Obstruction - since that’s a proxy of sorts for collusion

3) Perjury/lying to Congress/lying to the FBI - since those charges allow Mueller to put the evidence of the conspiracies themselves into the court system and ensure they become public

4) Misc. financial crimes related to the money trail for all of the above

What we may not get is the Hollywood moment of all the key players being swept up in a prosecution of the huge overall crime of working with an enemy to undermine our democracy.

Mueller puts criminals in jail. He doesn’t care much about style points.

The bottom line though - and it’s the only one that matters - is that Mueller and his team of prosecutors is merely working on the very last mile:

Building prosecutions.

They aren’t investigating potential guilt.

They’re building cases to prosecute the guilty.

Take some comfort in that.

We don’t know how the charges will read.

They will be a product of what Mueller can most easily publicly prosecute.

They will just be a tool to bring about serious prison time.

Mueller knows what Trump and co. have done.

No doubt.

Al Capone was a violent, sociopathic murderer. He went to jail at the age of 33. His life was effectively over by the time he left Alcatraz.

He went down for tax evasion.

Mueller knows what Orange Capone did. Now he’s just doing the work that will put him and his gang away.
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