Mueller indictments, a guilty plea, and a resignation
A very busy day in Washington as special counsel Robert Mueller's office handed down two indictments related to its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Paul Manafort, the one-time chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, and his colleague Richard Gates, face a dozen charges, including conspiracy, tax evasion, money laundering, and failure to declare their work as agents of a foreign government. You can read the indictment here.
Manafort and Gates will be booked and will make their initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge, probably this afternoon. They'll be released based on some sort of bail under the Bail Reform Act, which will provoke uninformed outrage. The fact that they were allowed to surrender suggests that the Special Counsel won't seek high bail — they may even be released on their own recognizance without bail, or may only be required to sign a signature bond (a promise to pay money if they don't show up), but may be required to post money or property to secure their return. That could get interesting, as the Special Prosecutor can make them demonstrate that the money or property they post is not derived from ill-gotten gains. Eventually — possibly at their first appearance, more likely at a late appearance — they will be arraigned (formally informed of the charges against them) and enter their not guilty pleas. Then the schedule will be determined by the United States District Judge to whom the case is assigned. Under the Speedy Trial Act they have a right to trial within 70 days of their first appearance, absent application of a host of exceptions that are almost always applied. It's likely that everyone will agree to a much later trial.
In later news, prosecutors requested Manafort's bail be set at $10 million, and Gates' bail at $5 million. Both are under house arrest.
At the same time, it was revealed that George Papadopoulos, who advised the Trump campaign on foreign policy matters, has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents over his contacts with Russian officials. He is cooperating with Mueller's office. What does this mean? White writes:
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint and the factual statement he accepted, Papadopoulos lied to FBI agents during a January 27, 2017 meeting (note that's before the appointment of the special prosecutor) about his interactions with Russian nationals in connection with his role in the Trump campaign. Specifically, he lied about the nature and extent of his contacts with Russians during the campaign. He told the FBI that Russians offered "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" before he joined the Trump campaign, when it was actually after, and characterized conversations with Russians as minor in consequential when they were actually extensive. In addition, after a second interview with the FBI in February 2017, Papadopoulos deleted a Facebook account which contained some of his communications with the Russian nationals, and created a new one. The FBI was nonplussed.
And the kicker:
[The plea] shows that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign's contact with the Russians not later than January 2017, that the Special Counsel continued that investigation, that they've obtained emails showing communications by at least some people with Russians, that Russians told campaign representatives that the Russians had "dirt" in the form of emails about Clinton, and that the Special Counsel is (for now) continuing the investigation.
In short, this investigation appears to have a long way to go, and it is probable more indictments will be issued.
And in a side note, after the news broke about the indictments Monday morning, Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta resigned from his firm. Recall that Podesta, brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, came under scrutiny for work his firm did on behalf of...yes, the Russians.
At this rate, it we're going to discover that every prominent swamp creature in DC was pocketing money from the Kremlin.