The news about Manafort and Papadopoulos isn't enough to bring down the presidency. But it will still worry Trumpby Andrew Stuttaford / October 31, 2017 / Leave a comment
The unsealing of a grand jury indictment of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager in mid-2016, did not come as much of a shock. Long-standing suspicions about Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine and what the Washington Post has delicately referred to as his “complicated financial past” were bad enough, but when the FBI descended on his house in a pre-dawn raid in August, well…
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to look into possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but he can nose around much more widely than that job description might suggest—and then follow up on whatever it is he thinks that he has found.
What Mueller thinks he has found arises out of Manafort’s career as a political consultant and lobbyist, and specifically the work he carried out for Ukraine’s ‘Party of Regions’, the party of the now-deposed president, Victor Yanukovych, and the party that succeeded it after Yanukovych fled to Russia. Along with his business associate and fellow Trump campaign worker Rick Gates, who has also been indicted, it is alleged that Manafort laundered millions of dollars, failed to declare his full income to the taxman, failed to register as a ‘foreign agent’ and failed to furnish the information that that status would have required. When questioned about this, Manafort allegedly lied to the Feds—something that is also illegal.
The indictment has its theatrical moments, including talk of “conspiracy against the United States”—a phrase that means rather less than non-lawyers might think. As is usual when American prosecutors want defendants to crumble, squeal or both, every imaginable charge—bank fraud, failures to disclose foreign bank accounts, you name it—is thrown into the mix, pushing the potential prison sentence out into some dismayingly distant date (Manafort is 68). The indictment also includes notice that prosecutors will seek forfeiture of any assets traceable back to the alleged money laundering, something that will add to the pressure on the defendants and will not, I suspect, have gone unnoticed by their lawyers.
Bad as this all is, these indictments may have been greeted with a degree of relief in the White House. Donald Trump was quick to—surprise—tweet that “this [was] years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the…