If I was a thorough writer, and this was a professional news site, I might try to draw an outline of the connections between Donald Trump and the Russian government in elections interference. I have been following the story closely, or as closely as could be expected, and I could write an outline of the case, but even professional journalists have had problems keeping up with a case that started (if we have to pick a point) with Michael Flynn on a phone call to the Russian ambassador, and has not ended yet, although we have 12 redacted investigations in the report of the Office of Special Counsel to guess at. I remember, in March (or was it April?) of 2017, riding a bus through a rainy night in Ñuñoa, reading on my phone that Flynn had asked for testimonial immunity. And, I thought, "this means something is happening". Well, I was right about that, but couldn't have guessed exactly what was happening. I would not have said "This will obviously lead to Pras Michel from The Fugees being investigated by the federal government for his role in helping the finance chair of The Republican Party pay for his Playboy Bunny mistress' abortion hush money.". And yet, that seems to be the case. Or at least, that is one way to sum up what has happened in a series of investigations that is headed for the history books.
So rather than try to sort out the investigation, I will talk about someone who is not related to it: Spiro Agnew, the Vice-President of Richard Nixon. You might remember Spiro Agnew. Actually, you probably don't. The median age in the United States is 38 years, meaning that whoever reading this was probably a preteen when Agnew died, and was a decade away from being born when Agnew was booted from office. You might be familiar with Agnew, and his role in the Nixon presidency. Okay, probably not even that. You might be familiar with the alliterative phrase "Nattering nabobs of negativity", which is something I think Agnew said. I am trying to write this without googling. Other things I know about Agnew: he was from Baltimore, or at least somewhere in Maryland. He was a conservative, and used as an attack dog against the media by Nixon. And, he was corrupt. What type of corruption did he do? I believe that it was something incredibly pedestrian, liking taking bribes as the Baltimore County executive on contracts to resurface the parking lot of the Baltimore Civic Center. That is what I am going to say without googling: let me google and see how close I was. (Okay, apparently it was a little bit more widespread than that, but it was a matter of bribes for contracting work, while county executive and governor). Agnew ended up pleading nolo contendre to a single charge of tax evasion.
What is interesting about Agnew is that his involvement in an investigation and legal problems happened at the same time as Richard Nixon and Watergate, but was coincidental. The only link between them was, it would seem, whatever brings immoral people together. (At least, that is what we know now: who knows what future historians will connect.) Normally, the prosecution for corruption of a sitting vice-president would be a gigantic political story, both at the time and for posterity. But now, Spiro Agnew is a footnote, even for those of us who are well-informed about history. In the wide cast of characters that Watergate gave us, Agnew himself is barely remembered (thus, my frantic googling to fill up the above paragraph).
So, bringing it back to Trump and Russia: right now, we don't have the historical perspective, or even the first hand sources, to know who is Spiro Agnew in this case. What in the constant string of names of people being investigated or indicted is important, is related to a larger story, and what is the equivalent of Spiro Agnew getting kickbacks for road construction? A few weeks ago, Jeffrey Epstein, a sketchy figure in the world of high finance, and sometime associate of Donald Trump (and, for that matter, Bill Clinton), was arrested for charges related to child prostitution. Trump's secretary of labor, Alex Acosta, who had given Epstein a soft plea bargain a decade previously, resigned from his post. So the question for us now, is that when the history of the Trump administration is written, will Alex Acosta be anything more than a footnote? Was the investigation into Epstein in some way part of the 12 redacted investigations in the OSC report? I don't see why it would be, but it is hard to say they are unrelated. Will there be a chapter of this theoretical book detailing how Acosta's genial attitude towards the wealthy and powerful was a sign of the Trump administration's overall behavior, or will it be confined to a parenthetical paragraph in the middle of a narrative of the more important events?
I don't know. In the news stories we are reading right now, some of the things we are reading about are related. Some of them are not. Some of them are linked through odd coincidences or long chains of incidents. As we get more information, what is the central story will hopefully emerge. But right now, I don't know, and if you think you do, you either know a lot more than me, or a lot less than me.
Revision from August 10, 2019:
Five days after writing this, Jeffrey Epstein was found dead of a presumed suicide in his solitary confinement cell. That the highest-profile prisoner in the country was not on an around-the-clock suicide watch, and that his suicide occurred the day after documents relating how others might have known or participated in his crimes were released, has led many people to, at the very least, "ask questions".
Depending on when you are reading this, and what happens, my original comment about Epstein might seem prescient, or, at this point, this footnote might be seen as extraneous. I still don't know. Do you?