On Monday October 30th, Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia made its first indictments public. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos were all indicted. These indictments were filed five months into the investigation, which began in May. The process has been extraordinarily fast for a federal investigation.
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was hired in March 2016 and left in August 2016. Manafort has a long history of working with Ukrainian oligarchs since 2005. Manafort was hired to provide image consulting for a pro-Putin Russia-friendly Ukrainian party and he provided consulting services for former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych. Manafort lobbied on behalf of Yanukovych in D.C., and Yanukovych is currently in Russia, though he is wanted in Ukraine on charges of high treason. Manafort’s connections to the region and tendency to align with foreign leaders make his appointment as Trump’s campaign manager highly suspect. Manafort has been charged on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principle, and false and misleading US Foreign Agents Repetition Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports financial accounts. He pleaded not guilty on October 30th. He is currently in house confinement with a $10 million bond and must report daily to law enforcement by phone.
Gates is Manafort’s protege. He started working for the Trump campaign during Manafort’s time, and stayed on as deputy campaign manager. He helped form the pro-Trump non profit group America First Policies and was eventually removed from the organization due to his connection to Manafort. He faces the same charges as Manafort and has entered a not guilty plea. He is currently on home confinement with a $5 million bond. His and Manafort’s trial has been set for May 7th 2018.
Papadopoulos was a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel, and according to his LinkedIn page, he is an oil, gas, and policy consultant. A Trump campaign official told CNN that Papadopoulos had a significant amount of contact with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election cycle. Alex Ward reported for Vox News that Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27th and pleaded guilty to charges on October 5th. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about having contact with three individuals who he believed had contact with the Russian government. Two of those individuals were Russians. It is currently unclear whether these individuals were actually authorized by the Russian government to speak to the Trump campaign.
This is just the start of the Mueller investigation and there will most likely be more indictments. News sources have compared the process of the Mueller investigation to mob investigations, in that the investigation is using smaller, low level participants to take down larger members of the organization. Going forward, it has been widely speculated that Mueller’s next step will be to attempt to flip Manafort, to persuade him to become a cooperating witness and to give information about the connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. News sources have suspected that Mueller will use the same strategy to go after Trump that he used with Manafort: targeting his past potential financial crimes in order to gain his cooperation.
MASON BAGGETTE & TERRIN ROSEN