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How close will investigation ?get to Trump?

Opinion Piece

It has been a bad week for US President Donald Trump but it is too early to tell if a new Watergate is about to engulf American politics, as the investigation into possible collusion with Russia in last year’s election gathers momentum.

The situation is complicated. Two former top Trump aides have handed themselves in to the FBI and now face criminal charges, to which they have pleaded not guilty.

However, the charges against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates predate Manafort serving as Trump’s campaign manager — with Gates, a long-time business partner, as his deputy — from June to August 2016. The allegation is that they received tens of millions of dollars from a pro-Russian Ukranian political party, then lied about it.

Of more significance is the surprise announcement a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, was arrested in July, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and is co-operating with investigators.

Again, while the charges are not directly linked to Trump, there is speculation Papadopoulos has more to reveal. Is he the equivalent of White House counsel John Dean whose evidence was a major part in the fall of Richard Nixon in 1974?

One thing for certain is that Trump is deeply uncomfortable with relentless special investigator Robert Mueller, who has been painstakingly building a case while keeping a low profile.

The question now is how close he will get to Trump and other top aides, including Donald Trump junior, who unwisely met with Russians claiming to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Trump has of course fired back on Twitter, dismissing Papadopoulos as a “low-level volunteer” and a “liar”, and renewing his calls for a prosecution of Clinton.

He has a legion of enemies including a large part of the media, many of whom have been hoping to see his impeachment. But while his approval rating has dipped again, he still has a solid core of supporters.

Just where this will all end is unknown, but watching it unfold is likely to be gripping.