Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort has been indicted with money laundering, tax evasion, conspiracy against the United States, and lying to federal investigators by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The indictment is the latest dramatic turn in Mueller’s investigation of Russian ties and influence of Trump’s presidential campaign. Also indicted was Manafort’s longtime assistant, Rick Gates, who had a role in the Trump campaign. The two surrendered to authorities shortly after their grand jury indictments were made public.
President Trump immediately dismissed the seriousness of the indictments and tried to shift attention away from himself to that of Hillary Clinton in what has become a pattern of discrediting and distraction.
News of the upcoming indictments was first reported by CNN, a news organization that Trump has waged a media war to discredit as a source of “fake news.” Pro-Trump news channels and figures have been working hard to discredit Robert Mueller as of late as pressure of Mueller’s investigation grows.
Trump has in the past called for Mueller to be fired as Special Counsel, alarming lawmakers into introducing legislation to prevent Trump from firing Mueller specifically. Most recently Trump-supporting pundits have been calling for Mueller’s firing under the vague guise that he is somehow connected to an allegedly illegal, and yet to be fully investigated, Uranium deal that occurred when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
However, any chance of Mueller being fired by the Trump administration is most likely a fantasy. Robert Mueller has often been praised for his character and reputation. His no-nonsense professionalism was welcomed by both sides of the political isle when he was appointed as Special Counsel. Not to mention Trump not only made it necessary for the appointment of a Special Counsel, he also ruined any chance of removing that person when he fired James Comey (see article on James Comey’s firing).
Trump has been reported to be offering to pay as much as $430,000 in legal fees of White House staff and campaign aids that are being investigated in the Russia probe. What may seem as a generous gesture, can be quickly pointed out to be a potential source of conflict. The offer paying legal bills may make it less likely for a witness to testify against Trump.
In theory, President Trump could try and thwart the investigation by pardoning Manafort and Rick Gates, however, that would be an even greater blunder than the firing of Comey and could very well lead to the end of his presidency. It also would be a grave mistake for Manafort and Gates to count on Trump pardoning them, for that they just have to look to Scooter Libby whom George W. Bush refused to pardon even over Vice President Dick Cheney’s protestations.
The arrest of Paul Manafort is just the latest part of the Russia investigation and shows that Mueller means serious business and is pulling no punches. The indictments will likely push the investigation further along. Typically, these kinds of charges are not only designed to land a guilty verdict of the person charged, but to help force the cooperation of the person into sharing information that leads to the indictment of others. Mueller’s investigation will continue well into the future. Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters will continue to discredit and distract from the investigation.