Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion, among other crimes, following an investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The New York Times reports that Manafort “surrendered to the F.B.I. and pleaded not guilty to charges that he laundered millions of dollars through overseas shell companies — using the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antique rugs and expensive clothes.”
As explained in the case file, Manafort, alongside his business partner Rick Gates, consulted for Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych, rerouting income made from these lobbying efforts via offshore companies and financial institutions in Delaware, Cyprus, the Grenadines, Seychelles and St. Vincent.
Manafort’s indictment alleges that roughly 75 million dollars passed through these accounts and facilitated Trump’s former advisor’s lavish lifestyle in the United States.
According to the New York Times, Manafort spent plenty of money stateside on luxury goods such as 1.3 million dollars worth of high-end clothing, a 5.5 million dollar home renovation in the Hamptons, a “$3 million brownstone in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn and a $2.8 million condominium in SoHo.”
Furthermore, both Manafort and Gates are accused of “violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, for failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities.”
These charges, which stem from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 elections, do not actually involve Manafort’s work with the Trump administration, and the US President made it clear via a series of tweets.
Early on October 30th, in an effort to distance his administration from Mueller’s Manafort findings, Trump tweeted, “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?????” and “....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty & Helps FBI in Russia-Trump Probe
However, it was later revealed that George Papadopoulos, who once served as a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign, admitted to lying to the FBI and has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation for several weeks now.
Russian operatives purportedly approached Papadopoulos, offering the Trump campaign incriminatory emails on Hillary Clinton in an effort to influence the outcome of the US presidential elections.
As summarized by The Atlantic, Papadopoulos set up meetings “with “the Professor,” an unnamed figure in London who proffered high-level connections within the Russian government, as well as an unnamed Russian woman claiming to be Putin’s niece” in order to “use those connections to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Media reports suggest that the “Professor” referred to in the indictment is Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic who’s pro-Putin and has ample ties to the Russian government.
Analysts Praise Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Russia’s Interference
According to political and legal analysts, Robert Mueller is just getting started with his investigation.
As explained to The Atlantic, Richard Ben-Veniste, who was actively involved in Watergate’s special-prosecutor task force, “I would say this is High-Level Special Counsel Investigation 101…Mueller is operating by the book.”
Furthermore, John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s who was part of the team looking into the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, said, “These are very serious criminal charges, and it reflects a lot of detail and appears to be a strong, very professional federal criminal case… I doubt it’s the only front, or that it’s the end point of the investigative activity.”
Additionally, Jacob Frenkel, who’s a defense lawyer in Washington, told the Associated Press, "I think everyone to whom Mueller and his team wanted to send a message heard loud and clear the message.”
Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes agree with Frenkel.
They wrote, “Mueller’s opening bid is a remarkable show of strength. He has a cooperating witness from inside the campaign’s interactions with the Russians. And he is alleging not mere technical infractions of law but astonishing criminality on the part of Trump’s campaign manager, a man who also attended the Trump Tower meeting. Any hope the White House may have had that the Mueller investigation might be fading away vanished Monday morning. Things are only going to get worse from here.”
Finally, Steve Vladeck, a UT-Austin Law Professor, believes all signs point to collusion.
“Manafort might be a bigger fish, but Papadopoulos is a bigger story,” Vladeck said. “To me, this is the kind of plea deal that puts the c-word—collusion—back on the table.”
Will Trump escape this investigation unscathed? I guess we should all tune in to the next episode!