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Robert Mueller has dropped his first (and possibly not final) precision-guided bomb on the Trump White House. The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has indicted Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, the US president’s former campaign manager and his assistant, with crimes mostly related to work in Ukrainian politics. Both have pleaded not guilty. If this was not shocking enough, another campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, was indicted for lying to the FBI about his links to Russia. It is a tangled web that will take a lot of effort to unravel.

But, as we say in an FT View editorial, none of Mr Mueller’s indictments is proof that the Trump campaign used intelligence provided by Russia to discredit Hillary Clinton. What we do know is that the investigation has ample reason to exist, there is plenty more work to be done and it should not be interfered with. President Trump may well try to oust Mr Mueller. And if he tries, it will be over to Congress, where the president has few friends, to ensure it does not happen. Either way, if the president attempts this, he risks plunging America into a constitutional crisis.

As well as following where the Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos indictments will go, attention will turn to who else Mr Mueller is investigating. Edward Luce argues that Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, and Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, are possible future targets. Edward says there is no doubt about what Mr Mueller is aiming to prove: that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Who knows at this stage whether he will succeed, but he is pursuing every available lead carefully and diligently.

Catalonia and the EU: Gideon Rachman argues in his column that Spain’s constitutional crisis is another challenge to the EU’s future. Whereas membership was once a safe space from past disputes and illiberal politics, Spain, Britain, Italy, Poland, Greece and most of central Europe are all deviating dramatically from what used to be the European norm.

Dangers of direct democracy: Janan Ganesh says in his column that the decline of representative democracy threatens the fundamental way democracies are governed. There is no folk memory in Britain, for example, of a nation losing its mind to endless referendums.

Westminster sex scandals: The tide of sexual harassment allegations in British politics is rising rapidly. I’ve argued that this could turn into a full-blown scandal and become as consequential for the reputation of MPs as the 2008 expenses scandal.

Best of the rest

Will Manafort Sing? — Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times

Weighing the Costs of Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein — Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker

To what circle of hell are Republicans about to consign themselves? — Michael Gerson in the Washington Post

Info Wars: Inside the Left’s Online Efforts to Out White Supremacists — Decca Muldowney in ProPublica

Philip Hammond is in a very deep Budget hole. But here’s how he can dig his way out — William Hague in The Telegraph

What you’ve been saying

Leave voters won’t change but a leader could recant — letter from Steven Fogel in London:

“Sir, Simon Knapp (Letters, October 26) is correct to say that opinions on Brexit are unlikely to change. Voters won’t easily admit “we were misled; we were wrong”. Confirmatory bias is slow to be displaced by buyer’s remorse. However, what might galvanise a turn in public sentiment is if one or more of the leading Leave advocates publicly recanted or admitted that Brexit turns out not to be worth the bother. The chance of this is slim, but it could gild rather than blight a political career.”

Comment from John Bloom on Andrew Hill’s piece, Blockchain Man and Woman will have to wait:

“My own rules of thumb is to never trust anyone or anything that makes a claim about being ‘baked in’.”

Policymakers need a financial stability target — letter from Richard Barwell in London:

“The real policy problem is not the false choice between achieving an inflation target and a financial stability target. It is the fact that there is no target for financial stability. Financial crises are very costly but there is no agreement on the optimal frequency of crises. Society pays a heavy price when the supply of core financial services to households and companies dries up but there is no agreement on what exactly constitutes a core service and therefore what markets policymakers need to protect . . . It’s high time the politicians gave the policymakers a target to aim for.”

Today’s opinion

Janan Ganesh: Direct democracy threatens way we are governed
Business and technology are shaping a world in which earthly government is peripheral

Instant Insight: Mueller charges pitch US towards constitutional crisis
Trump is an expert at diversion so expect fireworks in coming days, writes Edward Luce

FT Alphaville: The San Francisco Fed’s hidden message on optimal monetary policy

Instant Insight: Will sexual harassment in Westminster be as big as MPs expenses?
The allegations against senior politicians could shake British politics to its core

Gideon Rachman: Spain’s crisis is the next challenge for the EU
Europe’s safe space of centrist stability is shrinking

John Thornhill: Would you donate your data for the collective good?
A nation’s ability to exploit information in smart, creative ways will help determine its economic success

Nick Butler's blog: Iraq and the risks to the oil market

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany: French women declare war on the sex pests
A cultural revolution is under way, led by the gender equality minister

Free Lunch: Hail the large activist investor
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund shows potential power to influence company decisions

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M Masri
Its focus on education has forged a modern society, with a longstanding reform agenda

FT View

FT View: Mueller’s investigation puts down a marker
Despite Trump’s protests, the Russia probe must not be blocked

FT View: Healing the wounds of secessionism in Spain
Mariano Rajoy is right to dismiss Catalonia’s government and call elections

The Big Read

The Big Read: Big Tech and Amazon: too powerful to break up?
While Google, Facebook and Twitter are set for a grilling in Congress over Russia, it is the online retailer that is drawing intense scrutiny

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