Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight federal charges Tuesday, just an hour before Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including illegally paying hush money for the purpose of helping Trump win the election.
With previous guilty pleas from Rick Gates (2 counts), George Papadopoulus (1 count), and Mike Flynn (1 count), that brings the total number of Trump associates who have pleaded guilty to or been convicted of criminal charges in the Russia probe to five, and the total count of criminal charges on their rap sheet to 20.
While Trump and his legal team tried to make the best of the situation this week, the only defenseRudy Giuliani could come up with was that Trump himself has not been indicted (yet), though legal experts say the charges against Cohen make Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in the illicit payment scheme.
This week’s developments are bad news for Trump not only because they implicate him, but also because they serve as a reminder of just how productive the Russia investigation has been and how critical it is for it to continue.
Even before Manafort’s convictions and Cohen’s guilty plea on Tuesday, the majority of Americans supported special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and believed that it was important to let it continue. Americans also disapprove of the way Trump is handling the probe, and a majority believe he has been untruthful.
Of course, Trump will continue to lash out, likely louder than ever, and his cries of “witch hunt!” are not likely to go away any time soon.
But unfortunately for Trump and his cronies, Mueller’s investigation isn’t going anywhere, either. And with each passing day, the evidence trail gets one step closer to Trump.
Here’s a look at some of the major results thus far:
Charges, pleas, and convictions:
-Number of people indicted: 32
-Number of Trump associates indicted: 5
-Number of companies indicted: 3
-Number of charges: 100+
-Number of people who have pleaded guilty (total): 6
-Number of Trump associates who have pleaded guilty: 4
-Number of Trump associates who have been found guilty: 1
-Special counsel Mueller’s record on getting guilty pleas or convictions against Trump associates: 100 percent
Rap sheet of Trump associates who have been charged:
- Role: Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and “fixer”
- Charges: Tax fraud, false statements to a financial institution, excessive campaign contributions, and illegal corporate contributions.
- Outcome: On Aug. 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful corporate contributions, and excessive campaign contributions. He said he was directed to violate campaign law at the direction of an unnamed candidate — meaning Trump.
- Up next: It’s not clear yet if or to what extent Cohen may cooperate by providing information to Mueller’s team. But as the keeper of Trump’s secrets, Cohen would likely have plenty to talk about.
- Role: Former Trump campaign chairman
- Charges: Manafort is facing three separate indictments. One set of indictments, filed in October 2017 in Washington, D.C., includes charges of conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets, all stemming from his work for pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians. Another set of indictments, filed in February 2018 in Virginia, includes financial, tax, and bank fraud charges. A third set of indictments, filed on June 8, includes charges of obstructing justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice by using intimidation or force against a witness, and also tampering with a witness, victim or informant.
- Outcome: Manafort pleaded not guilty on all charges but was found guilty on Aug. 21 of eight federal counts, including five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report foreign bank accounts. The jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on 10 additional charges, so the judge in the case declared a mistrial on those 10 counts. Manafort could face spending the rest of his life in prison when he’s sentenced.
- Up next: His second trial begins in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17.
- Role: Senior campaign aide for Trump and longtime business partner of Manafort. After joiningthe campaign in spring 2016, Gates was eventually promoted to Manafort’s deputy campaign manager. He, along with Manafort, oversaw activities at the 2016 Republican National Convention on behalf of the Trump campaign. After Manafort left the campaign, Gates stayed on and ultimately ended up working on Trump’s inaugural committee. He also helped raise millions of dollars for the pro-Trump group America First Policies.
- Charges: Initial charges were filed in October 2017, but in February 2018, a superseding indictment added new charges and replaced some of the original charges. A total of 23 charges were ultimately filed against Gates, including 11 counts of tax fraud, three counts of failing to file reports of foreign accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy, and four counts of bank fraud.
- Outcome: In February 2018, Gates pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Other charges, including money laundering, working as an unregistered foreign agent, and making other false statements, were dropped as part of a plea deal. To satisfy the conditions of his plea deal, Gates testified against Manafort in the Virginia case and confessed to committing a slew of crimes with his former business partner.
- Role: Former national security adviser and top Trump campaign adviser
- Charges: In late November 2017, Flynn was charged with one count of making false statementsto the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which included discussions about sanctions on Russia.
- Outcome: Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI as part of a plea deal.
- Up next: Special counsel Mueller’s office said Tuesday that Flynn is not yet ready for sentencing, indicating that he is still providing valuable information as a witness.
- Role: Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. According to documents that were unsealed as part of Mueller’s investigation, Papadopoulos tried at least six times to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
- Charges: One count of making false statements and omissions to the FBI.
- Outcome: He pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the FBI about his interactions with Russian contacts, who included a Russian national who he described as “Putin’s niece.”
- Up next: Special counsel Robert Mueller last week recommended Papadopoulos be sentenced to as many as six months in prison.
Other individuals who have been criminally charged:
Alexander Van Der Zwaan
- Role: Attorney and associate of Rick Gates.
- Charges: In February 2018, Van Der Zwaan was charged with one count of making false statements to the FBI about his interactions with Gates and Manafort. The indictment also alleges that Van Der Zwaan deleted and failed to turn over emails to investigators.
- Outcome: The Dutch lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI the same month he was charged. In April 2018, he became the first person sentenced to prison in the Russia investigation.
- Role: California resident and business owner who is accused of selling bank accounts to Russian agents.
- Charges: Pinedo was charged with count of identity fraud for transferring, possessing, and using the identities of other Americans in connection with unlawful activity. According to the charging documents, Pinedo operated a company that allowed internet users to get around security protocols set up by online payment sites like PayPal. As part of his scheme, he allegedly created bank accounts using fraudulent identities and then sold them to customers.
- Outcome: He pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018, for which he faces up to 12-to-18 months in prison and a fine ranging from $5,500 to $55,000. Pinedo’s sentencing is expected to take place in early or mid-September.
13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities
- Role: Financial backers and employees of Russia’s notorious Internet Research Agency (IRA). Russian businessman and Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, who helped fund the IRA, was charged along with two of his businesses, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering (in addition to the IRA). Twelve IRA employees were also charged.
- Charges: All defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five were charged with aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges that the notorious “troll factory” was used to carry out influence operations aimed at sowing political discord and interfering in the 2016 election through, among other things, the dissemination of propaganda, “fake news,” and disinformation on social media platforms.
- Outcome: Unresolved.
12 Russian intelligence officers
- Role: Members of Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU).
- Charges: The indictment charges the 12 officers with one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States. The conspiracy was carried out with the intent of interfering in the 2016 election through hacking computer systems, stealing documents, and releasing those documents with intent to interfere. This includes the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the dissemination of emails intended to hurt Democratic candidates, especially Hillary Clinton.
- Outcome: Unresolved.
The Russia investigation has already yielded major results, but it’s also still very active. Many key questions remain unanswered, and investigators are reportedly still looking at a number of potential crimes involving Trump, his associates, and Russian officials. These areas of inquiry include but are not at all limited to:
- Roger Stone: Mueller’s team has interviewed many close associates of longtime trump ally Roger Stone, with a particular focus on his communications with Guccifer 2.0 (a Russian intelligence officer) and Julian Assange/WikiLeaks. The July 2018 indictment handed down by the Department of Justice actually cited Stone’s messages to Guccifer 2.0, though it doesn’t specifically name Stone. Investigators are also reportedly scrutinizing his emails regarding a “back channel” to Julian Assange.
- NRA donations: Mueller’s team is reportedly looking into NRA donors with links to Russia and investigating whether any of them used the organization to funnel illegal donations to support the Trump campaign. Investigators are thought to be scrutinizing the NRA’s tax filings for evidence of such activity.
- Trump Tower meeting: Investigators are also reportedly looking at Trump’s knowledge of and involvement in the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between campaign associates and Russian officials promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
- Trump’s inauguration and inaugural donors: Mueller’s investigators are also scrutinizingRussian-linked donations to Trump’s inaugural committee, as well as the attendance of (and “unusual access” given to) certain Russians at the event.
- Obstruction of justice: Mueller’s team is closely examining Trump’s actions to see if any of them, when viewed in context, may amount to an attempt to obstruct justice. Some of the actions being investigated include any attempts by Trump to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, his decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 as well as potential efforts to pressure Comey into backing off the investigation, his involvement in crafting a misleading public statement about the Trump Tower meeting, and even his tweets.
While no one knows exactly what to expect next, one thing is for sure: All one needs to do is look at the numbers to see that this investigation is picking up speed and catching up with Trump faster than he can outrun it.
Published with permission of The American Independent.