As CNN reported, based on a leak from Robert Mueller’s special counsel office, there was an indictment in the Russia probe unsealed today. And to nobody’s surprise, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, one a former Trump campaign manager, the other a political and business associate of Trump’s, were ordered to surrender to federal authorities.
Certainly, investigators will interview and take depositions from both men. They will present the men (and their lawyers) with the indictment and the charges against them. A federal prosecutor will set the time for an arraignment with a judge, and the case will proceed with pleas and opening motions. The wheels of justice churn like a grist mill.
The 12 counts include two conspiracy charges, money laundering, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign banks and financial accounts. These are all financial crimes for the most part, and they have little bearing on the Trump campaign’s Russia ties.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates have been indicted by a federal grand jury Monday on 12 counts, according to the special counsel’s office. Manafort and Gates face the first charges in the special counsel’s investigation. This is also the first time the special counsel’s office has confirmed that a grand jury has been impaneled.
Tony Podesta’s problem
Manafort may provide ammunition for Mueller in his expanded investigation of Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta, who has ties to various congressional Democrats and Bill Clinton.
The very charges against Manafort go to the heart of the Podesta link. In his work for the Ukraine, Manafort set up a group called European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), which used Podesta’s lobbying group. These bear directly on the indictments, and could spell trouble for Democrats. Of course, the DNC, neck-deep in every part of the Russia connection, from the “dossier” to “fake news” and lying about it, denies any knowledge of anything.
Manafort walked into the FBI’s field office in Washington, D.C. Gates is a longtime associate of Manafort and serves as his junior partner at his firm. Gates became a point of interest in the investigation into Mueller after investigators found Gates name on documents linking Manafort’s firm to offshore companies that received payments from Eastern European politicians and businessmen.
Under FARA, people who lobby on behalf of foreign governments, leaders or political parties must file detailed disclosures about their spending and activities with the Justice Department. Willful failure to file the forms is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison, though such prosecutions are rare.
The Podesta Group amended its FARA registration to accurately reflect its work with ECMU only after the payments were reported by the media. Manafort’s firm also filed a FARA registration after media reports in June disclosed its work in Ukraine from 2012 through 2014.
The denial is reminiscent of Ellison’s claims to have not heard of Democratic IT aide Imran Awan, despite being repeatedly informed of the major investigation involving him. In both the Awan and dossier affairs, Democratic leaders have said they did not have knowledge of major events that greatly concern them. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi professed unfamiliarity with the Awan investigation despite playing an important role in the handling of the case months ago as one of the House leaders who determined it warranted a criminal probe.
This is just the beginning. But a few thoughts here.
For one thing, as Erick Erickson notes, we need to be careful in our assumptions. At this point, it doesn’t appear that the charges against Manafort are directly related to anything he did with the Trump campaign. Though the investigation was spurred on by the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, that angle led to these charges against Manafort, who we all knew had Russian problems before he was hired by Trump. (I’m sure Manafort will pass his exceeding thanks for the jail sentence on to Trump, if he’s not pardoned.)
Another thing, is that we know the Democrats and the swamp-rats all over K-street have their paw prints on this whole Russia thing. If Mueller is just making his mark with these two indictments and then closing shop, Trumpists will hail it as exoneration (but it’s not really), while Democrats will howl that there’s no justice but in fact be relieved and use it to raise badly-needed cash.
But if more Trump-related charges come forth, without anything on the Democrat side, then perhaps Joe Cunningham has a point. Mueller could be either a Democrat operative or a Republican hack. If the investigation drones on without any further findings (a la Ken Starr), that might do more to exonerate Trump than anything (plus Republicans can raise funds off it).
What this ultimately does teach us is that both Democrats and Republicans are as swampy and dirty on this as they can get. And the Russians are laughing at us.