And the First Domino Falls

Two people were arrested yesterday on federal charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential elections. Former Donald Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a Manafort business associate, Richard Gates, found themselves in front of a federal judge. Both pleaded not guilty. George Papadopoulos was arrested earlier in the month, arriving from overseas on charges related to the Russian investigation. These are the first charges filed by Robert Mueller as part of his broad investigation into criminal collusion by the Russian government in the 2016 elections, allegations of a Trump cover-up and interfering with a criminal investigation. Mueller is reportedly also looking at other activities that he may file charges on later.

For its part, the Donald Trump administration, and his surrogates, have argued that the Mueller indictments are for Manafort events prior to him acting as the campaign manager for the Donald Trump campaign and thus are unrelated to Trump. However, George Papadopoulus pleaded guilty on October 5, 2017.

Papadopoulus served the Trump campaign as a foreign policy advisor. He pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI for telling the FBI agents, interviewing him, that he held a meeting with Russian agents about Hillary Clinton negative research prior to joining the Trump campaign. George Papadopoulus acknowledged his lies to the FBI and pleaded guilty to making them.

The “Statement of Offense,” accompanying the Papadopoulus guilty plea, details numerous meetings and communications between several people acting on behalf of Russia and Papadopoulos. The court document details that Papadopoulus had the meetings only because of his connection to the Donald Trump campaign.

The content of the meetings and the communications revolved around emails and other information possessed by the Russians that compromised Hillary Clinton and her campaign. It is clear that the Russians communicated with Papadopoulus because of his connection to the Trump campaign.

For their part, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, the pleaded not guilty to twelve counts of defrauding the United States. Most of the charges stem for activities from 2006 through 2015. However, several charges include activities up until this year. For Donald Trump, Count Ten of the indictment should be of concern. This count charges Manafort, the former Donald Trump campaign manager, and Manafort’s underling, Richard Gates, as acting as “unregistered agents” for a foreign government. They are accused of acting on behalf of the Ukraine government.

Count Twelve alleges that both Manafort and Gates lied to the FBI up until February 10, 2017.

For the Trump administration the fact remains that two former campaign employees have been arrested on charges related to Russian interference in the 2016 elections. One individual, George Papadopoulus, pleaded guilty to lying about the Russian connection to FBI agents.

Legal observers have commented that the charges against Manafort are an attempt to get Manafort to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. They argue that Manafort may want to offer details implicating others, including Trump, in an attempt to lessen his potential punishment for the charges in the indictment.

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