After a weekend of speculation surrounding the news that members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had approached a federal grand jury to file charges, former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort has surrendered himself to the authorities.
It also appears that a former associate of Mr. Manafort’s, Rick Gates, has also been requested to surrender. Reports state that Manafort turned himself in at 8:15 this morning.
The New York Times suggests:
“Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.”
And a copy of the charges does indicate that this is correct. Both Manafort and Gates are being charged with laundering money through shell corporations in the United States and elsewhere. And the defrauding of the government by hiding taxable incomes.
But what is noticeably absent from the charge sheet (which you can read here), is any mention of President Trump, members of his team, acts that took place whilst employed by Candidate Trump, and oddly enough, absolutely anything to do with the initial scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Manafort himself was likely expecting charges to be filed after his home was raided by the FBI last summer; at the same time, prosecutors had warned him that he would be facing indictment. Many saw this as an attempt to leverage Manafort into “spilling the beans” on President Trump.
Those who know Manafort have said “he had nothing to offer that would help prosecutors build a case against Mr. Trump.” So if this is not an attempt to “scale up” the investigation, people are wondering how alleged violations of federal tax law fall under the scope of Mueller’s investigation.
The world at large is already aware of Paul Manafort’s previous dealings with Ukraine and Russia, and these are, in fact, the very reason that President Trump fired him from the team:
“ (After) reports that he received more than $12 million in undisclosed payments from Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, and a pro-Russia politician. Mr. Manafort spent years as a political consultant for Mr. Yanukovych.”
These facts are already known, already responded to by the administration, and have already achieved all the damage they are likely to. It appears that Mr. Manafort’s involvement with the Russians (and in fact, any “soviet” organizations) was finished long before his Trump involvement.
Beyond the Scope?
Many in social media are already questioning what this particular indictment has to do with the Trump-Russia collusion issue. If, after several months of knowing that he would be charged, Manafort has not offered “dirt” on President Trump, the chances of him doing so now are all but impossible.
This arrest will fill column inches for weeks, but will it aid in the investigation into either President Trump engaging in illegal acts or the Russian government “fixing” the election? Clearly not.