Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Donald Trump campaign and the Kremlin has engulfed three members of the president’s orbit with various charges coming down on Monday.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a close aide Richard Gates have been indicted on charges that the pair funneled millions of dollars through off-shore shell companies to bankroll lavish and luxurious lifestyles.
These indictments come in tandem with news that former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in January about a meeting with a Russian professor in order to gain ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.
The charges against Manafort and Gates are very different than Papadopoulos pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, and it’s worth noting that neither case directly implicates Donald Trump, but the political dominoes are certainly falling.
There’s a lot to comb through here, so let’s take all of the news bit by bit.
Paul Manafort and his aide Richard Gates had been hiding money in overseas shell companies for years in order to “enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” according to the indictment.
Further, Manafort and Gates repeatedly lied to investigators about their finances,
“As part of the scheme, Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants and legal counsel, among others,”
While Mueller’s investigation has uncovered Manafort’s dealings, the FBI has been interested in the former Trump campaign chair for years. The Washington Post reports that Manafort has been a subject of interest for federal investigators,
“Mueller was appointed in May to oversee the probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, taking over work that the FBI had begun in July 2016. Their interest in Manafort, though, dates back to at least 2014 — long before Mueller was appointed or Manafort was connected to the Trump campaign.”
The details are pretty staggering, as, according to the indictment, “More than $75,000,000 flowed through the offshore accounts.”
Worth noting: indictment charges that Manafort engaged in criminal conspiracy at time he was campaign chair for man who is now President.
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) October 30, 2017
The indictment breaks down Manafort’s spending and it would appear that my dude has some expensive ass taste.
Here’s a brief look at of some of Manafort’s spending:
– $1,319,218 wired to a “Home Automation, Lighting and Home Entertainment Company in Florida.”
– $934,350 to an “Antique Rug Store in Alexandria, Virginia.”
– $849,215 to a “Men’s Clothing Store in New York.”
– $520,440 to a “Clothing Store in Beverly Hills, California.”
That is bread.
Manafort, who spent years as a consultant to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, used his contacts in the Eastern European political sphere to hide millions of dollars in payments in a personal firm set up in Cyprus.
Again, none of this is the smoking gun as it pertains to Trump and Russia, but if Manafort and Gates orchestrate some sort of plea deal and speak to federal investigators to save their own asses, the president may be in some trouble.
Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to FBI
According to court documents, a Russian professor with ties to the Kremlin told a Trump adviser named Greg Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.
When questioned about this meeting by authorities in January, Papadopoulos said there was nothing to it.
Weeks ago, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI when questioned about the proposed meeting.
From the New York Times,
“Mr. Papadopoulos told the FBI in January that the professor was ‘a nothing.’ But Mr. Papadopoulos now acknowledges that he knew the professor had ‘substantial connections to Russian government officials.'”
While the charges against Manafort and Gates have just been announced, Papadopoulos has quietly been working with Mueller’s investigation since the former Trump adviser was arrested in July. And with this revelation, new questions are being asked about other supposed meetings between the Trump campaign and Russians. The New York Times reports,
“Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested in July and has since been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, records show. Mr. Papadopoulos’s conversation in April raises more questions about a meeting in June at Trump Tower, where Mr. Trump’s eldest son and senior advisers met with Russians who were similarly promising damaging information on Mrs. Clinton.”
Papadopoulos’ lies to authorities have to do with his knowledge of the anonymous Russian professor and whether Papadolous was a part of the Trump campaign when he communicated with the Russian contact.
And while, according to the Times, “Mr. Papadopoulos told the authorities that the conversation occurred before he became an adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign.” That was not the case, “In fact, he met the professor days after joining the campaign.”
Specifically, this mysterious Russian professor “took interest in Mr. Papadopoulos because of his status with the campaign,” according to court documents.
Papadopoulos then excitedly emailed a higher-up in the campaign claiming that, according to the Washington Post, “the professor had introduced him to ‘Putin’s niece’ and the Russian ambassador in London.”
Now it appears that Papadopoulos has been speaking to federal investigators. It will be fascinating to see what comes from this.
George Papadopoulos has been busy on LinkedIn recently — and apparently looking to sell his story pic.twitter.com/QSVSIysYza
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) October 30, 2017
Trump asks why investigation isn’t focusing on Hillary Clinton
Obviously Trump has responded with his whole “but what about [insert Hillary, Obama, some other shit here]” thing.
He tweeted that Manafort’s financial indictments were “years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign” and complained that the investigation, which is specifically investigating Trump’s campaign, isn’t focusing on Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
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
The president also reminded everyone that there is “NO COLLUSION!”
….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
No matter what the president says, if Manafort and Gates testify against him in order to save their own asses, Trump could be in trouble. And it appears that Papadopoulos is already speaking to federal investigators.
But the President’s lawyer Ty Cobb (literally his name) told the New York Times last week that Trump isn’t worried about what anyone says,
“The president has no concerns in terms of any impact, as to what happens to them, on his campaign or on the White House.”
It’s clear that the scope of the Mueller Investigation includes everyone in Trump’s periphery and other figures surrounding the president could soon be caught up in the maelstrom.
The Washington Post identified two particular focuses of Mueller and his team. One of these includes meetings between Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador, as well as a meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer,
“[Topics interesting investigators] include meetings the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow in December, and a June 2016 meeting at Trump tower involving the president’s son, Donald Jr., and a Russian lawyer.”
Mueller is also looking into Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to the Post,
“Mueller is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice leading up to Comey’s firing. His team has been actively presenting records and bringing witnesses before the grand jury in D.C. for the last three months.”
As the investigation continues to intensify, it’s best to just wait for concrete information before proclaiming that TRUMP IS GETTING IMPEACHED on your social media. Clearly, where there is smoke there is fire, but it’s more likely that the people surrounding Trump will continue to be dragged into this mess than the president himself.
Speaking of which, let’s get Jeff Sessions out the fuckin’ paint.
— Mike Nizza (@mikenizza) October 30, 2017
This is going to get so ugly.
It’s obvious that there was A LOT of sketchy shit going down within the Trump campaign during the lead up to the 2016 election. Whether that means Trump was directly involved with the Russians has yet to be established.
I just want the pee tape.