In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with former FBI counterespionage operative Naveed Jamali. He is a senior fellow in the program on national security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the author of the recent book “How to Catch a Russian Spy,” which details his time as a double agent working against Russian military intelligence.
Mueller’s first indictments related to the Russia scandal were not a complete surprise. How do you make sense of these charges, as well as the Trump administration’s behavior before they were made public?
Everything pointed to the fact that the president was making preemptive attacks for no reason. Mueller operated in a very calculated fashion and his messaging was totally clear. The message from his treatment of Manafort and Gates is, “If you don’t cooperate with the FBI, we’re going to throw the book at you.” But if you look at Papadopoulos, the message is a complete 180. Mueller made it clear that if someone is cooperating they are going to get zero to six months in jail and potentially just probation. It’s a very different outcome for three different people. I think the message is clear: “You cooperate with us, you tell me what I want to know, I’m not going to make it difficult on you.”