Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictment against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates is “much ado about nothing,” according to a former federal prosecutor.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review Online that Mueller’s indictments are about getting Manafort and Gates to cooperate, and, for now, have nothing to do with allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“From President Trump’s perspective, the indictment is a boon from which he can claim that the special counsel has no actionable collusion case,” McCarthy wrote.
“It appears to reaffirm former FBI director James Comey’s multiple assurances that Trump is not a suspect,” he wrote. “And, to the extent it looks like an attempt to play prosecutorial hardball with Manafort, the president can continue to portray himself as the victim of a witch hunt.”
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to 12 counts, including “conspiracy against the United States.” Manafort served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager for a few months, but resigned once reports surfaced he may have illegally received money from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
Federal authorities on Monday unsealed indictments against Manafort and Gates, a former Trump campaign official and associate of Manafort.
Authorities also indicted George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to federal agents about the timing of his meetings with people connected to the Russian government.
McCarthy said “Mueller’s case, at least in part, seems shaky and overcharged” based on what’s been unsealed.
“Obviously, one purpose of the conspiracy count (Count One) is to enable prosecutors, under the guise of establishing the full scope of the scheme, to prove law violations that would otherwise be time-barred,” McCarthy wrote.
“It may well be that Manafort and Gates made false statements when they belatedly registered as foreign agents, but it appears that Mueller’s office has turned one offense into two, an abusive prosecutorial tactic that flouts congressional intent,” McCarthy wrote.
“Finally, the money-laundering conspiracy allegation (Count Two) seems far from slam-dunk,” McCarthy wrote. “For someone to be guilty of laundering, the money involved has to be the proceeds of criminal activity before the accused starts concealing it by (a) moving it through accounts or changing its form by buying assets, etc., or (b) dodging a reporting requirement under federal law.”
President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, reportedly said the president is not considering pardons for former Trump presidential campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates.
“No, no, no. That’s never come up and won’t come up,” Cobb told reporters in response to questions as to whether or not Trump is thinking about offering a presidential pardon to Manafort and Gates.
Manafort and Gates were instructed to turn themselves into federal authorities Monday morning, marking the first charges in the ongoing investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. The pair agreed to turn over to federal custody Monday, after being indicted in a federal court on 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, and knowingly making false and misleading statements.
The indictments come after a federal grand jury approved the first criminal charges Saturday in Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign affiliates.