Yesterday morning Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered the first two indictments in his Russia-Trump probe investigation, ordering former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates to surrender themselves to authorities that same day. They are both charged on 12 counts, including "conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts."
Though none of the charges involve Trump or his election campaign last year, that does not mean that more charges, as well more indictments, will not be delivered in the weeks and months to come. In fact, it is to be expected. In large investigative like these, prosecutors begin with the small fish and with charges they can prove with documentation, and then they get people talking as they work themselves closer to their intended target.
Even so, there is still good news for those hoping the investigation will reach to Donald Trump. The indictment of Trump's former campaign manager, the man who helped him get to the Oval Office, betrays Trump's hypocritical "drain the swap" rhetoric. With what we already know about Manafort's relations with Ukraine and money laundering, the man is the epitome of the corrupt swamp Trump once vowed to clear out of D.C.
And either Manafort or Gates, or both, could know information that implicates Trump, and the current charges serve as leverage to get them to talk in exchange for a lesser punishment. Finally, there's always the (likely) chance that Trump will get himself into more trouble by overreacting either live or on Twitter.
Already, Trump erupted with a number of tweets over the weekend that attempted to distract and redirect toward Hillary Clinton and Democrats, asserting all the corruption was over there, and not with his administration nor with Republicans.
"Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more.
"Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia, 'collusion,' which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!
"All of this 'Russia' talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!"
Then after the announcement of yesterday's indictments, Trump took to Twitter again to deliver his response.
He tweeted adamantly that there was absolutely no collusion with Russia, and that Manafort's charges involve activity that took place years before he was part of Trump's campaign (this is a lie, as the charges specifically list crimes that happened all through last year).
After surrendering yesterday, Manafort and Gates were taken before a federal judge and placed on house arrest with $10 million and $5 million bails respectively. So what happens next?
Attorney and Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester Seth Abramson posted on Twitter a detailed explanation of what the indictments do and could mean, and what could follow.
"Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are now indicted. This thread analyzes legal and political aspects of their indictment and surrender."
(THREAD) Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are now indicted. This thread analyzes legal and political aspects of their i… https://t.co/rPI429dr3i— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1509369325.0
"America is getting an education in how prosecutions work: prosecutors charge everything they possibly can that they think they can prove. That doesn't mean new charges can't be added on these men later, but we can assume this is everything Mueller thinks he can prove *now*."
5/ That doesn't mean new charges can't be added on these men later, but we can assume this is everything Mueller thinks he can prove *now*.— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1509369686.0
"Don't take anything from the fact that the charges do not immediately, on their face, implicate Trump or campaign collusion with Russia. In an investigation of this size and scope, the early charges are *mostly* intended to compel defendants to cooperate with investigators."
7/ In an investigation of this size and scope, the early charges are *mostly* intended to compel defendants to cooperate with investigators.— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1509369848.0
"No one believes Paul Manafort is the final target of the Russia probe, nor even necessarily that these are all the changes he could face. But these are the charges Mueller has now, and he may have investigated them first because they're - relatively speaking - easier to prove."
9/ But these are the charges Mueller has now, and he may have investigated them first because they're—relatively speaking—easier to prove.— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1509369945.0
"What that means is that the evidence most likely to prove a Trump-Russia conspiracy involves words said between persons, not documents. Because words often have no printed record, you tackle documentable (e.g. financial) crimes first, and then the sexier testimonial ones."
12/ Because words often have no printed record, you tackle documentable (e.g. financial) crimes first, and then the sexier testimonial ones.— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1509370063.0
Moving forward this means Mueller is likely to press Manaford and Gates for information, which will lead to new evidence and new testimonies, onward and onward until the investigation is satisfied with catching the big fish.
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