Although we had advanced notice that there was at least one arrest coming today in the Trump-Russia probe, the scope and scale of the charges today are stunning.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted today on 12 federal counts of conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and false statements on documents and to law enforcement officials. Additional charges include failure to register and report work done as agents of a foreign government within the United States.
They had a hearing at a D.C. federal courthouse today, during which their passports were seized because they were both deemed to be flight risks, bail was set at $10 million dollars for Manafort and $5 million for Gates and both will be under house arrest at minimum until their next status hearing on November 2, 2017.
If convicted, Manafort could face up to 15 years in prison. Gates could get just over 11 years as well.
As much of an earth shattering story as this is, there was a quieter third indictment today of another Trump campaign staffer and it could pose a much bigger problem.
George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign security advisor, was indicted today on charges of lying to the FBI. These charges are directly related to Papadopoulos’ work during the 2016 campaign. He allegedly lied under oath about conversations he had with (likely) Rick Gates about colluding with Russia. He attempted on numerous occasions to coordinate meetings between a “professor” he knew that was close with Vladimir Putin and the Trump campaign.
Moreover, he has plead guilty and will serve no time. That is because he has become a cooperating witness for Mueller and if he’s getting no time, he must have something valuable for the former FBI director, certainly more valuable than the “dirt” he tried to score on Hillary Clinton.
It’s impossible to predict where this might move next, but there are many different directions the investigation, and Trump’s reaction to it, could go. Trump could try to pardon his way out of it, but the legality of that move is dubious and even if it were successful it would remove 5th amendment protections under oath for the recipients of the pardon. It might also further a case of obstruction of justice against Trump.
Trump could try to fire Mueller, but (again) that could definitely be construed as obstruction of justice in a prosecutor’s eyes and there would be holy political hell to pay. Even some of the politicians pushing the completely fictional Uranium One “scandal” have been supportive of Mueller’s efforts.
The investigation could also take down some Democratic powerhouses as well. Tony Podesta resigned from the lobbying group he founded today after his work with Paul Manafort appeared in the unsealed indictments. I hope that anyone involved in this crooked scheme to prop up the pro-Russian pseudo government of Ukraine gets the justice they deserve if crimes have been committed.
Could Flynn be taken into custody tomorrow? Will Kushner see his time as “White House Advisor” end in handcuffs? Will Donald Trump have an “indictment” unsealed against him as an “co-conspirator?”