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Capitol Hill seemed relatively quiet in its immediate response to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates turning themselves in to the FBI. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Editorial: If Donald Trump tries to stop Robert Mueller’s investigation after Paul Manafort’s indictment, the president is sealing his own fate.

Special counsel Robert Mueller began draining a swamp that the president would rather leave unexplored.

America needs to know what’s at the bottom.

The investigation is about foreign interference in our 2016 election – a matter of national security.

Trump has damaged his own credibility by insisting this is a witch hunt aimed at him personally.

Trump’s reaction to Mueller’s indictment of two former campaign officials is one more self-inflicted wound from a president who can’t get over his own well-developed sense of self to grasp the concept of public service.

The indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign official Rick Gates do not directly relate to the election – something Trump was Twitter-quick to point out.

But the 12-count indictment for conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and tax evasion is strong evidence Trump did not hesitate to surround himself with shady characters.

It was well known in Washington that Manafort was bad news because of his connections to the Kremlin’s puppet-government in Ukraine, as well as ties to former Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Trump engaged Manafort anyway.

The president’s childish tweet insisted the indictable offenses happened “years before” the campaign, and questioned why the focus wasn’t “Crooked Hillary.” He also stressed “NO COLLUSION.”

Yet.

But the revelation that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos admitted to lying to the FBI does circle back to the 2016 election.

This isn’t just about Trump’s buddies

The FBI said in court documents released Monday that Papadopoulos “falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed ‘dirt’ related to emails” involving Hillary Clinton.

These documents also discuss an email between Trump campaign officials that suggest they were considering a Russian invitation to visit Russia.

Earlier revelations about meetings between Trump associates and family members and Russians have strained the credibility of a White House that had denied any contact.

This is a White House where character deficits run deep.

It’s not just a matter of those with whom Donald Trump surrounded himself – though that’s bad enough.

Trump’s reaction to the investigation is more evidence that his commitment to self-preservation is far better developed than his interest in the public’s right to open government.

We have confidence that Mueller will find the truth if given time and resources.

What does Trump have to hide?

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After the grand jury issued indictments related to the Russia investigation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders quickly pointed at the Clinton campaign when asked by reporters about collusion with Russia. USA TODAY

Yet Trump has warned that Mueller would be going too far if he began investigating matters – such as Trump finances – that do not relate to the 2016 election.

Such keep-out zones are not acceptable.

This needs to be a comprehensive investigation.

Trump arrogantly keeps his tax returns a deep secret despite the precedent of openness by other candidates and presidents. Trump is a public servant and those returns are the public’s business.

The fact that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey during his investigation of Russia’s interference in the election helped spur bipartisan efforts in Congress to make it tougher for the president to fire Mueller. The White House has denied the president intends to fire the special counsel.

Firing Mueller would be clear evidence that the White House has something big to hide – beyond the general ooziness of Trump’s choice in advisers.

It would be the deepest of the self-inflicted wounds by a president who continues to demonstrate why he is unfit for the job.

It would assure that calls for Trump’s impeachment would spread beyond Democrats.

But even Trump’s continued hostility toward the investigation is deeply disturbing.

Mueller matters even more now

This isn’t complicated.

The importance of Mueller’s investigation should be obvious to anyone who values the integrity of our national elections. Clearly the Russians tried to tip the balance. What we don’t know are the details.

As president, Trump should be first in line to demand answers that can help prevent Russian interference in future elections.

But he isn’t.

That makes Mueller’s swamp-draining efforts all the more important.

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http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2017/10/31/paul-manafort-indictment-trump-robert-mueller-investigation/815005001/

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