Buckle up for even more from special counsel’s Russia probe

The sentencing of Michael Cohen was never going to be about Michael Cohen. It was always going to be about Donald Trump.

The president’s former lawyer and fixer got 3 years in prison Wednesday for what a federal judge in Manhattan called a “veritable smorgasbord” of crimes. But the colorful language paled in comparison to the potential implications for Cohen’s former boss.

Pre-sentencing, an attorney with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference told the judge that Cohen had provided “credible and reliable information about core Russia-related issues under investigation.” Post-sentencing, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said his client will tell publicly all he knows once Mueller’s investigation is finished, and that Cohen has cooperated fully with the probe into “possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling.”

That can’t be good for Trump, even allowing for some Davis spin. It surely is more ominous than Wednesday’s announcement that the National Enquirer’s parent company, operated by a Trump buddy, admitted making a $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model in 2016 in concert with Trump’s campaign to suppress her story and “prevent it from influencing the election,” a deal brokered by Cohen.

Russia matters most

Violating campaign finance rules is one thing. Colluding with a foreign adversary and/or obstructing an investigation into that is something else entirely.

In the end, Russian meddling or any efforts to stop the investigation of it is what matters. Wednesday provided another piece of the puzzle. Recent federal filings in the cases of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Maria Butina added more.

Cohen was charged with lying to Congress about a possible Trump Tower in Moscow, claiming discussions ended before the 2016 primaries, although they continued until that June on a project that required Russian government assistance and could have meant hundreds of millions of dollars for Trump’s organization. Cohen also told Mueller about a Russian national who contacted him in 2015 seeking “political synergy” with the campaign.

Still too much we do not know

The Flynn filing detailed lies by Trump’s former national security adviser about his own Russian contacts and extolled his “substantial assistance” with the investigation. Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was accused of breaching a plea agreement by lying about contacts with Russians and White House officials; at least 16 Trump associates are known to have interacted with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign and transition. And Butina, a Russian national, admitted in a plea deal to conspiring to act as a foreign agent by working with a Russian official to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party.

Trump continues to disparage Mueller’s probe, and the nation is divided as to its merits. Whether you see each development as another nail in Trump’s coffin or another blank fired by federal prosecutors, if you try to fill in the gaps now, you do so at your peril. There still is too much none of us know. Let it play out. Let Mueller present his evidence, then pass judgment on Trump. This national drama is far from its final act.