by Darren Squillace ’19
Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is being indicted on felony counts by Robert Mueller, who was recently appointed this past year by the Justice Department to be special counsel in the investigation into potential Russian hacking and interference during the last presidential election.
While this seems damning to Trump and his victorious campaign on the surface, as Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager for several months, the exact ramifications from this indictment are unclear to many.
Though the investigation was originally intended to inquire specifically into Russian interference in the election and their communications with the Trump campaign, it was later expanded to investigate corruption within Trump’s campaign circle as well as any other potential foreign ties. Many believe that Manafort was fired from his position as Trump’s campaign manager because the interactions with foreign governments became too glaring to ignore.
This past week Special Counsel Mueller brought up Manafort on 12 counts, including conspiracy and money laundering charges. More specifically, Manafort is being accused of laudering money to political parties in Ukraine while failing to register as a foreign agent. These are not charges that relate to Russia or the potential meddling that occurred to rig the election in favor of Trump.
Court documents state that Manafort and an associate of his were both lobbying for and laundering money to a pro-Russian and Putin allied political party in Ukraine. It is believed that as much as $75 million dollars in payments were laundered to the party.
By not registering as foreign agents when making these transactions, Manafort illegally neglected the Foreign Agents Registrations Act, known as FARA. FARA is an act set forth by the Justice Department that requires people to register with them in order to serve as agents to foreign governments. On top of these charges, Manafort and his associate are accused of laundering money from their Ukrainian business into U.S. bank accounts and did not report these funneled-in funds to the Internal Revenue Service. Mueller has also accused them of making false statements about their business dealings to multiple government entities such as the State Department.
While this is not the smoking gun discovery that many Democrats are hoping to get out of these investigations relating to Russia and their potential meddling in the election and ties to the Trump campaign, these charges are in fact very real and very significant. They could also lead to investigations into other members of Trump’s entourage, both former and current, that could lead to findings similar to the ones that have been discovered regarding Manafort. The federal judge on this case has issued a gag order.