Shortly after having to learn how to spell ‘indictment’ this morning, the Trump Twitterati hurried back to their dictionaries to learn about ‘collusion.’
The news of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, along with aide Rick Gates, being indicted broke bright and early. The 12-count indictment starts with ‘conspiracy against the United States’ and ends with a pledge to seize all their ill-gotten assets.
Hours later, with the ‘so what if he was a crook before working for the campaign?’ meme making the rounds of administration apologists, the second shoe dropped. Foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27 and is cooperating with the special counsel investigation, testifying about relationships between the Trump campaign and Russians.
It’s gonna be a bad week at the White House.
When I first read the Manfort/Gates indictment, my assumption was that Mueller was going for the low-hanging fruit, hoping to flip a witness or three. In an investigation of this size and scope, the early charges are often intended to compel defendants to cooperate with investigators.
Building a case around financial misdeeds is often a critical part of a larger investigation. Prosecutors in this situation follow documented crimes—i.e. less testimonial—in order to compel defendants to testify. It’s likely the prosecution is headlining this attention-grabbing charge to better make out its case for an exorbitant bail for both men.
JUST IN: The govt asked the court to set Manafort’s bail at $10m and Gates at $5m, and court to place Manafort and Gates under home arrest
— David P Gelles (@gelles) October 30, 2017
Given Manafort’s obvious mercenary motivations (as revealed through a decade’s worth of money laundering), the former campaign manager was an obvious target. Other persons close to the campaign and the current administration are either ideologues (Flynn) or family (Kushner).
Here’s a rundown from Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: (emphasis mine)
The charges, which include “conspiracy against the United States,” “conspiracy to launder money,” and “false and misleading statements,” among others, were unsealed on Monday morning. They come barely five months after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special prosecutor. And they’re not expected to be the last. In addition to Manafort and Gates, Mueller’s team is also believed to have sufficient information to indict Mike Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser….
…The impending prosecution creates substantial pressure on both Manafort and Gates to trade testimony or other cooperation against other Trump associates, or Trump himself, in exchange for leniency.
The indictments also have political salience. Trump and the Republican Party are now guaranteed to enter next year’s midterm elections with at least two prosecutions of senior Trump associates hanging overhead.
Things to remember:
- Paul Manafort was Trump’s lawyer in the early 80’s.
- He was partners in a venture with Roger Stone back in the day.
- Manafort has lived in Trump Mob Towers since 2006
- He was Trump’s campaign manager from April through August 2016.
- Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin
- The Steele dossier claims Manafort was receiving “kickback payments” from Yanukovych’s associates in Ukraine, where Manafort “had been commercially active … right up to the time (in March 2016) when he joined campaign team.”
Highlights from the indictment:
- Manafort and Gates, “together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury” — a common charge in tax cases.
- Manafort used offshore accounts to launder more than $18 million of the $75 million he received from foreign entities. Gates transferred more than $3 million from offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled.
- Manafort is facing charges for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, misleading the government about the nature of their foreign lobbying efforts and making false statements — as well as seven counts of failure to file the appropriate government documents for foreign financial accounts.
- Manafort and Gates secretly lobbied for a Russian backed party and lied about it.
Meanwhile, back at the White House:
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
I gotta say the ‘he was an experienced criminal before I hired him’ is an interesting defense.
And at Fox News, they had more important things to talk about:
And, then, BOOM!
BREAKING NEWS: A former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, secretly pleaded guilty as part of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Papadopolous was arrested at Dulles airport on July 27, and signed a sentencing agreement on October 5, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. He reportedly has given up details about meetings with Russian officials who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton after he was appointed to the Trump Campaign.
The Trump campaign knew about Russia having hacked DNC/Podesta emails on April 26, just weeks (March 19) after they were stolen. The break-in was reported in the media on June 14.
The indictment says Papadopolous tried to set up meetings between these Russians and the Trump campaign and that top (as yet unnamed) campaign officials were aware of his efforts.
The plea agreement indicates this is not everything Papadopoulos knows.
UPDATE, via Lawfare.Com
It isn’t clear which emails the various parties might have been discussing here. There are, after all, the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee, which first became public on June 14, 2016 though the breach had occurred more than a year prior. There are the hacked emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, a breach the occurred on March 19, 2016 but did not become public until October 9, 2016. And there are also the purported 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department, a matter stretching back to 2015, which may not have ever been hacked but which Trump campaign folks clearly believed had been. There is also possibly some other category of alleged emails that wasn’t a matter of public discussion. But it’s clear that Trump campaign officials were after emails and, well, let’s just say they didn’t go to the FBI when they found themselves in conversations with Russian officials about them.
The stipulation also contains some rather damaging information about President Trump himself. Papadopoulos says he attended a “national security” meeting on March 31, 2016 with Trump personally in attendance, along with his other foreign policy advisors. In that meeting, Papadopoulos told the group that he had connections to arrange a meeting between Trump and President Putin. This means that Trump either knew or should have known about his campaign’s effort to interface with Russia, even as news of various criminal hacking and attempts to interfere with the US election were becoming public.
The Steele dossier alleges that Trump “agreed to sideline” the issue of Russian intervention in Ukraine during his campaign after Russia promised to feed the emails it stole from prominent Democrats’ inboxes to WikiLeaks.
So here’s what I surmise at this point:
- Papadopolous charges are about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.
- Manafort’s are about money-laundering through real estate.
- Both of those things have direct ties to Trump, who was dug out of bankruptcy to serve Russian oligarchs working through LLCs.
This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning for Robert Mueller.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) October 30, 2017
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