Releasing the Papadopoulos filing on the same day as the Manafort indictment was a tactical masterstroke by Mueller.

Rober Mueller is sending a hammer-blow of a message to the rib cages of Manafort, Gates, Flynn and everybody else involved in this caper: he has other paths to prove collusion.

The closer Mueller gets to thoroughly and empirically establishing collusion on his own using George Papadopoulos as a guide, the less valuable anyone else’s cooperation is going to be. The less valuable their cooperation becomes, the more severe any criminal penalties are likely to be for them. It will do people like Manafort no good to flip on the president after someone else has beaten him to helping Mueller connect all the dots. Manafort’s best chance at getting a good plea deal is to talk, and soon before someone like Michael Flynn goes for the sweetheart deal first.

Flynn has already tried to reach out to authorities seeking immunity and using his lawyer to tell Congress and the FBI that “he has a story to tell.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Manafort don’t fall over themselves trying to sell and tell their version first. They could get undercut themselves by people like Cohen and Page who already have to sense that as lower value targets they are only going to have even less leverage as time goes on. And that’s before we factor in Sean Spicer’s fastidious note-taking habits. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t end up witnessing one of the most savage games of musical chairs in U.S. political history.

This is why every good mob movie ends with the top guys killing all their witnesses and accomplices. Could it be time to cue up “Layla” and start checking the backs of meat trucks?

Hold your partners close, kiddies; the next few bars of this dance could go pretty fast.🔷

(Cover: Twitter / @GeorgePapa19)