After a weekend of speculation, Paul Manafort, as well as his associate Rick Gates, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, false statements, and seven counts of failing to file the proper paperwork concerning international bank accounts and funds. Manafort has turned himself in, and Gates has been told to do so on Monday. So what’s next for the duo?
- Manafort is essentially in trouble for money laundering, and he’s in serious trouble to boot: The vast majority of the charges concern financial crimes. Manafort has been under investigation for a while, with Mueller taking over a separate Justice Department investigation in Manafort’s alleged activities. Keep in mind, the indictments released today were decided by a grand jury, which looked at the evidence available and decided which charges should be filed. So a jury of Manafort’s peers has decided he needs to be hauled into court for answers. It also means Mueller doesn’t have to file evidence in open court, so we won’t know exactly upon what basis these charges are filed.
- This may have nothing, directly, to do with the Trump administration: Manafort has a long history of working for dictators and other unsavory individuals, but the charges revolve around allegations he was involved in fraud and money laundering in the Ukraine when it was ruled by Viktor Yanukovych, widely seen as a puppet ruler working for Vladimir Putin. Manafort is accused of laundering at least $18 million, and Gates $3 million. No current or former Trump administration member or organization is mentioned even in passing. That said, Manafort has reportedly received millions in loans from Trump-connected businesses, so the Trump organization, and Trump’s administration, are still neck-deep in this case. Mueller may also add charges as the case goes along.
- Next is the arraignment: Manafort and Gates will need to decide how they’ll plead to each crime. It’s likely, however, that either they’ll be offered a deal by Mueller or their legal teams are building one to bring to him as you read this. It’s extremely unlikely that Manafort wants a long, public court proceeding, especially if it’s clear from the evidence he’ll lose. It’s also worth noting this case likely involves other jurisdictions, as at the very least the Ukrainian government would like a conversation with Manafort, and the governments of various states he laundered money in may file charges as well.
- The main question is what else Manafort knows and how he and Mueller will interact going forward: It’s important to remember this is a rolling investigation, being treated like a cartel, not a finite investigation that’s just concluded. It’s also key to remember that if Mueller uncovers unrelated crimes, he’s expected to investigate them. So, Manafort may not hear the name “Trump” from now until the end of his trial. But considering Manafort supposedly tipped off federal authorities about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives, the question of what he knows, and when he can lay blame, is likely resting heavily on the minds of several people in Washington.
- What about a pardon? Many are wondering if Trump might pardon Manafort. But, leaving aside the legally tricky mechanics of that, it would be a bad idea. It would mean that Manafort has no Fifth Amendment protections, and a presidential pardon means nothing to state prosecutors and foreign courts. Manafort, in other words, is in trouble no matter how you slice it.