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Ahead of possible Mueller indictments, Donald Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton

“There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton.”

Trump Clinton Pool / Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

In the next day or two, according to CNN, the first arrests could be made in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government.

We don’t yet know who could be charged or what they would be charged with. But it’s a potentially monumental advancement of the probe that has consumed so much of President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

How is Trump, who has dismissed the investigation as “fake news” as often as he can, responding? He spent Sunday morning tweeting about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Trump is playing up two counter-scandals that have become favorites in the conservative media: an Obama-era uranium deal involving Russia, and the revelation that Clinton associates paid for a salacious dossier of opposition research on Trump during the 2016 campaign.

As Vox’s Andrew Prokop previously put it:

The political reason Trump is embracing both of these stories is clear enough: He’s trying to cast Russia-related dirt on both Democrats and the FBI (which he views as part of a “deep state” unfairly persecuting him), to try to discredit the investigation as a whole, and to change the subject from the question of whether any of his associates colluded with the Russian government during the campaign.

The important thing to remember is, regardless of their veracity, neither of these other issues has any bearing on whether the Trump campaign improperly coordinated with the Russian government to sway the 2016 presidential campaign.

The attacks on Clintonworld for reportedly funding opposition research on Trump during a presidential campaign are a particular stretch. Funding opposition research is not the same as colluding with a foreign government, and the dossier in question is far from the only source of allegations about Trump and Russia.

Here is how Vox’s Zack Beauchamp broke it down:

The notion that the Clinton campaign paying Steele is the same as Trump (allegedly) colluding with Russia is laughable.

The former involves paying an experienced private investigator — remember, Steele is a retired British agent — to conduct research. The latter involves working with a hostile foreign government to influence the outcome of a US election, and potentially aiding and abetting a crime (the hack and theft of Clinton campaign and DNC emails) in the process.

Most importantly, attacks on the provenance of the Steele dossier would only matter if it were the only real source of allegations about Trump and Russia. It’s not.

So ahead of potentially the most significant development in the Trump-Russia probe, Trump is relying on an old standby — Hillary Clinton — to try to change the subject.

For good measure, the president also has an alternative theory about what’s going on here: