Watch ‘The Wire’ to Understand the Mueller Investigation

For years now I’ve thought that some day I wanted to go back and re-watch the best show that has ever been developed for television, David Simon’s epic series, The Wire. I finally followed through and just finished the first season. It focuses on the investigation of Avon Barksdale’s criminal organization that was launched by homicide detective Jim McNulty after dead bodies started piling up with possible connections to the organization.

What strikes me as a I listen to Trump and his enablers talk about the Mueller investigation is that they could learn a thing or two about how law enforcement goes after a criminal organization from watching that season of The Wire.

The mainstay of the president’s public relations defense has been to discredit the Steele dossier. Before Mueller was appointed to be the special prosecutor, former FBI Director James Comey called it “salacious and unverified.” The “golden showers” description is indeed salacious, but that has no bearing on whether or not it’s true. At this point, we don’t know how much of the dossier Mueller has been able to verify, but there are large portions of it that have turned out to be factual.

Beyond running with Comey’s description of the dossier from months ago, the really pernicious lie Trump’s enablers tell about it is to suggest that it proves that the Clinton campaign and the Democrats “colluded with Russia” because former MI6 agent Christopher Steele gleaned his information from sources he developed from within the Kremlin.

This is where viewing The Wire would be helpful. The Baltimore Police detectives who were assigned to investigate the Barksdale gang often used informants to gather information. At one point, D’Angelo Barksdale, Avon’s nephew, gets disgusted with the violence and, finding himself arrested, gives the detectives all that he knows about their criminal activities. That would be similar to how Steele operated in Russia. He developed confidential informants who, for whatever reason, were willing to give him information about Putin’s so-called “Trump operation.” That is how investigators work cases like this.

Many times during the first season of The Wire confidential sources were developed as a result of being arrested. In exchange for a plea deal that involved a lesser crime and reduced sentence, they were willing to provide investigators with damaging information on their superiors within the Barksdale organization. When Trump’s enablers claim that people within his campaign like Papadopoulos and Gates have reached plea deals with Mueller on low-level charges and therefore, the special prosecutor has no case, they are engaging in an absurd argument based on ignorance.

The first season of The Wire only hints at how politicians actually conspired with Barksdale. At one point, an aide to state senator Clay Davis is caught leaving the projects with $20,000 in cash that was given to him by drug dealers, but the Deputy Police Commissioner immediately shuts that one down, ordering his officers to give the cash back to the aide and let him go. That is the analogy for the kind of conspiracy that Mueller is relentlessly investigating between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Trump’s enablers would have you believe that their use of the word “collusion” applies to the investigation, which is a “witch hunt” that needs to be shut down immediately. In the first season of The Wire, while Avon Barksdale wound up pleading guilty to a small offense and went to prison for a short time (leaving his operation to be run by his deputy Stringer Bell), powerful people in the police department shut down the whole investigation before it damaged any elected officials.

I highly recommend that you watch (or re-watch) the first season of The Wire and keep in mind the analogy to the following players in our real-life drama.

  • Avon Barksdale is Vladimir Putin
  • Lt. Cedric Daniels (who is in charge of the Barksdale investigation) is Robert Mueller
  • Detective Jim McNulty is the (sometimes rogue) James Comey
  • Detective Lester Freeman is Christopher Steele
  • Senator Clay Davis is Donald Trump
  • Deputy Police Commissioner Ervin Burrell represents all of Trump’s congressional enablers

We’ll have to wait and see if Mueller meets the same fate in his investigation.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .