Oct 30

The Russian Connection: Indictments – Round One

The news on Friday was that indictments were handed down by a grand jury that had heard evidence from Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump camapign’s conspiracy with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Early this morning, not only where there arrests but it was revealed that there was also a guilty plea. as was speculated all weekend, Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and another senior campaign operative, Rick Gates, with money laundering, tax evasion and failing to register as agents of foreign interests. Also, George Papadopolous, a former campaign foreign policy advisor, pleaded guilty on October 5 to lying to FBI investigators over his contacts last year with an unnamed Russian professor with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

Collusion itself is not a crime, unless it rises to the level of espionage or treason. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about the extent and timing of his contacts with Russians, and about his awareness of their links to the Kremlin.

His indictment alleges: “the Professor told defendant Papadopoulos about the Russians possessing “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton in late April 2016, more than a month after defendant Papadopoulos had joined the campaign.” [..]

The indictment against Manafort and Gates consists of 12 counts. The first is “conspiracy against the United States”, an overall charge that refers specifically to the failure to inform the government of foreign income and foreign bank accounts, and failing to register lobbying work for foreign interests.

The indictment unsealed in Washington’s federal courthouse focuses on the business activities of the two men before Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager in March 2016, and Gates became a senior campaign fundraiser.

The charges against Manafort and Gates allege the two men worked extensively for political figures and parties in Ukraine and laundered millions of dollars in payment for that work by channelling it through a web of companies, mostly in the US and Cyprus.

They are accused of constructing elaborate schemes to hide their earnings from the US government, and failing to register the foreign interests they were lobbying for.

The indictment alleges $75m in payments flowed through offshore accounts, of which Manafort laundered more than $18m to buy property, goods and services in the US, hiding the income from the government. It says Gates transferred $3m from the offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled.

The charges were approved by a grand jury on Friday. Although the indictment says the two men’s money-making activities lasted until at least 2016, the charges do not mention the role of the two men in the Trump campaign. [..]

However, the Mueller investigation is widely expected to produce further indictments and many legal observers predicted the investigation would start with charges related to financial crimes as a way of pressuring defendants to provide more information on the Trump team’s relationship with Moscow.

In his plea deal, Papadopoulos has agreed to cooperate with the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

A “statement of the offense” document released by the special counsel’s office states that “on or about March 31, 2016,” Papadopoulos attended a national security meeting with Trump and other advisers, at which Papadopoulos stated that he “could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin”.

Papadopoulos told investigators as part of the plea that he befriended a London-based professor with “substantial connections” to Russian government officials after he became an adviser to the campaign.

Papadopoulos initially told investigators that he met the professor before joining the campaign.

The professor was not named in court documents but is described as a person with close connections to the Kremlin who told Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.

The court records state that the professor had met with officials in Moscow immediately before telling Papadopoulos about the emails.

The professor also introduced the Trump adviser to an unnamed female Russian national who Papadopoulos believed was Putin’s niece.

“He sought to use her Russian connections over a period of months in an effort to arrange a meeting between the campaign and Russian government officials,” according to the indictment.

Papadopoulus was living in London when he learned – in March 2016 – that he would be joining the Trump campaign as an adviser. His principal aim in that role, he understood, was to improve US-Russia relations.

It’s just ten months into the Trump regime’s tenure. It took four years for President Richard Nixon to get tangled with the gang who couldn’t pull off a robbery and it took three years and two investigations to charge Pres. Bill Clinton with lying over a consensual sexual relationship. It’s not a surprise the Manafort was indicted. Although the charges are not related to the campaign, Manafort faces years in prison if convicted. There is no telling what kind of deal he might be willing to make if he has information that would lead to an indictment and the removal of Trump and his cronies from the Oval Office.

Popcorn, anyone?