In what some are describing as the most significant political development of the past year, FBI special prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted the former chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign Paul Manafort with federal crimes on Monday.
Along with business associate Richard Gates, Manafort was ordered to surrender to federal officials. George Papadopoulos, a member of Trump's foreign policy advisory panel, also admitted that he lied had to the FBI in an interview earlier in the year. In records released Monday, George Papadopoulos "falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed 'dirt' related to emails" concerning 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Records also describe an email between Trump campaign officials suggesting they were considering acting on Russian invitations to go to Russia.
With charges dating back to the 1990s, Manafort was charged with conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, false statements, and numerous counts of failing to file reports for foreign bank accounts.
Mueller's charges don't specifically address the Trump campaign nor the president himself, though as some have noted, the specific wording could be read as an indication of the prosecutor's line of inquiry.
"What stands out for me is Mueller's strategic use of implicit threat. Not only the ones he names. Not only against Manafort and Gates," tweeted journalist and Washington Post contributor Barton Gellman Monday. "Count 35 against Manafort hits at risk of bank fraud charges against his son in law, with potential financial drain on his daughter too. Counts 38 & 41 share ominous phrase 'together with others.' People may fear he's thinking of them & they won't find out in time to deal. Mueller knows things, some of them about Russia, and has proof. He's warning other campaign witnesses against perjury."
Since the indictment, many GOP leaders have been silent, while others have seemed to deflect or discredit the probe. This week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed Papadopolous’s influence, saying the adviser was "basically a volunteer.”
As Salon's Taylor Link reports, Sanders also attempted to spin the degree of influence Manafort and Gates had with the 2016 campaign, saying that they "mostly handled the delegate process and were let go after Trump clinched the nomination." As Link points out, Gates continued work on the campaign after Manafort left, and Manafort kept a telephone correspondance with Manfort for months after the nomination.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Manafort owns multiple passports and traveled with a phone registered to a fake name while traveling out of the country.
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