Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been a busy fellow for the past week. Rapid fire, his indictment of several Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election has been followed by a guilty plea, for lying to investigators, from a lawyer tied to Trump-campaign figures Paul Manafort and Richard Gates; a new indictment against Manafort and Gates that, as anticipated, added tax- and bank-fraud charges (in Virginia) to already existing money-laundering charges (in Washington); and finally, just breaking as this is written, a guilty plea from Gates on charges of defrauding the United States and lying to the FBI.
As President Trump’s champions emphasize, what is most notable about this array of allegations is an omission: Nowhere has the special counsel charged any kind of criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Of course, “collusion with Russia” was the suspicion — or, skeptics would counter, the carefully crafted political narrative — that launched the Mueller investigation. So has the collusion theory been abandoned? Is the fundamental rationale for the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel, which has addled the Trump administration for seven months, now a big “Never mind”?