On October 27, 2017 former Trump campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort was indicted on charges that included money laundering, tax fraud, and conspiracy. Manafort and his long-time associate Richard W. Gates surrendered to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to the charges that accused them of laundering money through foreign shell companies. Court documents detailed that Manafort collected upwards of $75,000,000 through offshore accounts and laundered roughly $18,000,00, used to support a “lavish lifestyle” in which he purchased multimillion dollar properties and luxury vehicles. Much of this money was produced by Manafort’s involvement with the campaign of a Ukrainian, pro-Russia political party. He concealed his earnings from his efforts to lobby for the Party of Regions’ presidential candidate Viktor F. Yanukovych from the United States government and subsequently avoided paying taxes on said income. Manafort faces 20 years in prison for the charges brought against him, and his first trial date is proposed for July 7, 2018.
It is important to note that Manafort’s involvement with the Ukrainian political campaign predates his involvement with the 2016 presidential campaign, and it has been stated that the charges brought against him are not directly tied to the Trump administration. However, this indictment is rumored to be part of the larger investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election led by Special Counsel, Robert Muller. In what the New York Times has called an “aggressive” approach to the Russia investigation, Mueller and his team have been vigilant and direct in setting a tone that highlights the severity and seriousness of the charges brought against government officials. With Manafort and Gates’ indictment, increased pressure may fall on the defendants to release any additional information they may have in relation to further ties between Russia and the Trump White House.
Mueller’s harsh tactics in the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election are proving necessary at a time where the current administration is coming under fire time and time again for their ability to remain transparent. As George Papadopoulos, former policy advisor to the President, recently admitted that he lied to the FBI about his communication with Russian intelligence during his involvement with the Trump campaign, the integrity of those closely involved with the President is continually being called into question. As the investigation progresses, it will be interesting to see how government officials that are found to be involved with Russia will choose to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller and the Department of Justice.
Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt, and Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times, “Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New Campaign Ties With Russia,” Oct. 30, 2017.
Sharon LaFraniere, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman, The New York Times, “With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone,” Sept. 18, 2017.
Nolan D. Mccaskill, Politico, “Judge proposes setting May 7 trial date for Manafort and Gates,” Nov. 3, 2017.
Indictment, United States of America v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates III, Oct. 27, 2017.