ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now to talk about where this investigation may go next we are joined by Sol Wisenberg, a white-collar criminal defense attorney who was deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater Lewinsky investigation. During the Clinton administration, he worked under Ken Starr. Welcome to the program.
SOL WISENBERG: Thanks.
SHAPIRO: Five months into the Mueller investigation we now have our first indictments. From what you read of the documents released today, where do you think it goes from here?
WISENBERG: Well, the only thing I know for sure is that it's going to keep on going. You know, there's no way it's not going to. What this does is send a signal. This is an unusually early prosecution by a special counsel. So it sends a signal that we're working, we're working hard, we know what we're doing, and you better look out for us.
SHAPIRO: I want to ask you specifically about George Papadopoulos. And the documents say there was a two-month window between when he was arrested in late July and when he cut his plea deal in early October. Given your experience, what do you think investigators were likely doing during those two months?
WISENBERG: They were unquestionably debriefing him. And perhaps they were wiring him up. We don't know. You'd have to be particularly dense to talk to somebody that late in the game. But you just don't know. I can tell you one thing. The deal would have been - when they caught him, they arrested him coming off that plane, they already had their case against him. So it would not have taken long to arrange this plea deal. It's a very simple, straightforward plea deal.
SHAPIRO: So some other reason for that two-month delay then. I want to ask you about the two examples we have today of, on the one hand, Papadopoulos agreeing to cooperate and, on the other hand, Manafort and Gates not agreeing to cooperate. There are other targets of this investigation. What message are they likely to take away from those two models?
WISENBERG: Well, from the model of Papadopoulos it's don't lie to the FBI, particularly when they can easily figure it out, and don't interview with them and then go erase your Facebook account. What the Manafort thing tells you is that they've got leverage. First of all, they have unlimited resources to put together a case like this. And they've got leverage. They've got incredible leverage over Manafort. And they won't hesitate to try to use that leverage against anybody else who they charge.
SHAPIRO: There was a Trump Tower meeting that we've heard a lot about involving a Russian lawyer and three people from the Trump campaign, one of whom was Paul Manafort. The other two were Donald Trump Jr. and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who's a top adviser to the president. Now that Manafort has been indicted, how do today's events illuminate what the future might hold for the other two who were at that meeting?
WISENBERG: I don't think it eliminates everything. I actually agree with the White House statement to the extent they're just talking about the Manafort indictment. Nothing on the face of the Manafort indictment relates to that meeting in Trump Tower. It's the Papadopoulos criminal information - it's not an indictment - that in a sense doesn't directly relate to it, but it's the same kind of thing. It shows that there were campaign officials who were willing to talk to the Russians about the possibility of help and didn't think about whether or not that violated federal campaign law.
SHAPIRO: That's former prosecutor Sol Wisenberg, now with the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. Thank you for joining us.
WISENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.