Robert Mueller: Happy Halloween Trump
Happy Halloween. How timely then, that the many skeletons in the closet, which some have pledged to bury in the dark, are finally coming out to haunt them. From sexual harassment allegations to the Russian probe, the news is inundated with the ghosts of the past returning to accuse the guilty. Most recently, the horrors of reality and fact have finally come to the surface to bite the Trump administration just on time for Halloween.
“Beware, I’m coming for you”
With the three charges against former Trump aides in relation to the Russian probe filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including the plea bargain with George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser who was arrested in July and since then agreed to help the investigation, Mueller’s message is clear: “Beware, I’m coming for you, and there’s nowhere you can hide.”
The Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller has announced twelve charges including money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the US, against former campaign manager Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates. They both pled not guilty to all counts in a federal court in Washington DC and were set bonds of $10m and $5m, respectively.
The former presidential foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, whose very Greek and common name has forced many other George Papadopoulos to come forward and explain that they have nothing to do with Russia or the Trump administration, admitted that he had links to the Russian government and that he lied about it when he was questioned by FBI agents. Papadopoulos had tried to arrange a meeting between Trump campaign and Russian officials and had links to the Russian government in order to find “dirt” about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Talking about Mueller’s court filings, Patrick Cotter, a white-collar defence lawyer in Chicago, said: “Oh man, they couldn't have sent a message any clearer if they'd rented a revolving neon sign in Times Square. And the message isn't just about Manafort. It's a message to the next five guys they talk to. And the message is: 'We are coming, and we are not playing, and we are not bluffing.'”
As is the case with prosecutions of white-collar crimes, the prosecution team targets players on the lower level and makes its way up slowly. It is clear that many other indictments are to follow. As Daniel Toomey, a prosecutor in Washington said: “There are additional bread crumbs that are missing leading to the White House.'' Toomey explained that Manafort’s indictment was complicated and that the “case, by my estimation, will take months to try. The cost of the litigation for Manafort will be in the millions of dollars.” A former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, Nick Ackerman stated that Manafort has no other choice but to plead guilty: “The only defence that you've got is to go in there and start singing like a canary to avoid jail time. And once he starts singing, one of the tunes is bound to be Donald Trump.''
Donald Trump: “NO COLLUSION”
Trump has always denied any connection of his campaign to Russian officials, calling the various investigations witch hunts and shifting focus to Hillary Clinton’s alleged criminal activities. Trump was also quick to clarify that Manafort’s charges related to events taking place before his presidential campaign by tweeting: “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?????”
While Papadopoulos initially claimed that his connection to Russian officials predated the Trump campaign, he later admitted that this took place during his time as a Trump adviser on foreign policy. Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Manafort and Gates’ Russian-linked incidents took place before their associations with the Trump campaign. In regards to the 30-year-old Papadopoulos she said that he was only present in a couple of meetings, trying to trivialise his influence and connection to Trump.
The indictment against Papadopoulos shows that he had various meetings with someone called the “professor,” who had links to Moscow and promised him “dirt” on Clinton and “thousands of emails.” The professor was named as Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese, full-time teaching fellow working at the University of Stirling. Later Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and Manafort would attend a meeting with a Russian lawyer Natalia Veseelnitskaya in relation to incriminating material on Clinton. Trump Jr was quoted saying how he would “love it” to hold such information.
The indictment against Manafort and Gates involves accusations of money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and making false statements. The two men were accused of moving money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St Vincent, the Seychelles and the Grenadines. They allegedly worked for politicians in Ukraine and laundered millions of dollars in payment for their work funnelling the funds through various companies based in the US and Cyprus. They received earnings for the foreign interests they were lobbying and tried to hide them from the US government.
But, in the style we have come to associate with fake news, Manafort’s lawyer said: “Mr Manafort represented pro-European Union campaigns for the Ukrainians and ... was seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukraine come closer to the United States and the EU. Those activities ended in 2014 over two years before Mr Manafort served in the Trump campaign.” If you say so.
The charges come after the FBI director James Comey was fired by Trump, and Mueller was appointed to lead an independent probe into the Russian interference into the 2016 US presidential election. Mueller has just started, well, it’s been six months now, but he’s coming for you.