A nation is waiting, with no clear sense of timing or resolution, to learn whether its leader is a foreign agent of a hostile power. But the director of this epic tale seems determined to jerk everyone around.
Expectations of imminent revelation are routinely deflated. At best, you get a modestly illuminating footnote. The most careful Twitter scholars of the scandal search these filings for redacted names, whose identities they can guess based on the number of characters blacked out. To follow this scandal with full attention is to have moments where one worries about becoming a crank.
Actual revelations come in the strangest form, and many of them from the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She has presided over the Paul Manafort case that never went to trial, the one where he pleaded guilty before it ever began. But since Manafort’s cooperation seems to have consisted of rank and unceasing mendacity, the lawyers in the case have kept returning to court. Unsealed transcripts of hearings have permitted eavesdropping on Robert Mueller’s lawyers. Along the way, prosecutors have dropped some fairly unambiguous hints about what’s ahead.
They have revealed just enough in court for us to believe that Manafort—and his dealings with his longtime aide-de-camp, Konstantin Kilimnik, an alleged asset of Russian intelligence—are at the “heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.” For all the wider world’s hypothesizing about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, here was Team Mueller suggesting a concrete and meaningful interaction.
There is nothing to elaborate the details of the meeting that Mueller had described as so important that took place on August 2 at the Havana Room in Manhattan, where Manafort allegedly gave Kilimnik detailed polling data and discussed a peace plan for Ukraine. The big question now is: If Mueller does have a big revelation, why is he sitting on it? We can only speculate from a position of relative ignorance.