Mueller has claimed his first scalp. This is big news. I don’t understand how Trump let it get this far. I assumed that the Mueller probe was allowed to do its thing with the implicit understanding that it was just to smooth over Democrat ruffled feathers and give lip-service to their concerns.
Now, it seems that the investigation has teeth.
Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine.
The 12 charges brought against Mr Manafort and one of his business associates, Rick Gates, include conspiracy to launder money.
They stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.
It has emerged that another adviser to Mr Trump admitted this month to lying about his links to Russia.
George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his dealings with an unnamed overseas academic who allegedly informed him that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Mr Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The charges against Mr Manafort and Mr Gates do not relate to Mr Trump’s campaign but to the alleged concealment of payments from the pair’s Ukrainian business dealings up to 2016.
In other words, they couldn’t prove or find anything, so they had to hit them on their taxes. That’s how it works in America, if the authorities can’t get you on political grounds, they get the IRS on you, and god help you if you think that you’re somehow immune.
Somewhere, somehow, you have violated tax code, I guarantee it. Manafort’s crime according to the Establishment is helping Trump get elected.
That being said, what was Manafort doing playing footsie with Yanukovitch, the former president of Ukraine?
Ukraine has been basically the Wild West since the 90s. You can come and buy anything, invest in anything, get great deals if you know who to bribe.
In other words, Manafort was far from being a boy scout.
Mr Manafort is accused of having laundered more than $18m (£14m) through offshore bank accounts, using it to buy property, goods and services in transactions concealed from the US authorities.
He is said to have “used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle” in America.
I suspect that Manafort did in fact do some shady stuff in Ukraine that’s coming back to bite him. But he’s not the only one wheeling and dealing in Eastern Europe. People forget that Democrats had their hands in the cookie jar as well. Joe Biden put his son, Hunter Biden, in charge of a fracking operation for gas in Ukraine until his heroin (or cocaine?) addiction made him quit.
I don’t see Biden getting charged with financial fraud.
Besides, Manafort did this years ago, when the US was cozying up the corrupt Yanukovitch regime. So what is the real motivation behind the charges leveled at him?
The good news for Mr Trump is these charges stem from Mr Manafort’s past business dealings, not his campaign efforts. He is being accused of working for years for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and laundering millions in subsequent payments.
It certainly makes Mr Trump’s decision to cut Mr Manafort loose last August after details emerged of his Ukrainian ties seem a wise one.
The good news has its limits, however. Mr Manafort will be under growing pressure to co-operate with the Mueller investigation. If he offers up useful information about his time during the campaign, this could be just the first domino to fall.
Someone somewhere in the Swamp has pinpointed him as a weak link in the chain and is applying pressure. The message that Mueller is sending is clear: associate or help Trump in any way and you get the screws.
Normally, I’d be cheering for Manafort getting the book thrown at him. He deserves it for helping corrupt scum steal the wealth of the Ukrainian people. But again, he’s not really being charged for that.
The US Establishment doesn’t care if you steal money abroad. They only care if you support Trump.
Meanwhile, the Russians are being snarky and pointing out that the report written up to indict Manafort is rife with errors. Like for example, erroneously citing that Yulia Timoshenko was president of Ukraine at the time. She has never been president:
“This is a very important moment showing the way how, once again, this document had been made, cooked up,” Zakharova added. “You understand when you talk about serious investigation one cannot allow things like that.”
This was probably thrown together by some interns last minute and the FBI was like, “whatever, let’s just run with it, the press is on our side anyway.”
I wonder what else will come of this. Will they start going after other Trump associates for financial irregularities? They might. They’re going all out with this one.