Mueller Indictments of 12 Russians and Manafort Not Related to Russian Collusion

By Rachel Alexander Published on August 7, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is indicting more people as a result of his probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. Sound bad for Trump? Not really.

This latest round of indictments is not related to collusion. Last month, Mueller indicted 12 Russians for attempting to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. Eleven of the defendants conspired to hack into computers, steal documents, and release documents in an effort to interfere with the election, Mueller charges. They hacked the DNC’s emails and top officials on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

They succeeded in some of the hacking. Mueller charged the twelfth defendant and one of the others with conspiring to infiltrate the computers of organizations responsible for administering elections.

Probably Toothless

Mueller can’t force the Russians to come to the U.S. for a trial, so the indictments are probably toothless. Russia does not extradite its citizens for trials. The indictments were announced immediately before Trump met with Putin. Some believe this was done in order to undermine the meeting. If so, that constitutes a significant interference in U.S. foreign policy. After the announcement, Democrats started demanding that Trump cancel the meeting.

Mueller can’t force the Russians to come to the U.S. for a trial, so the indictments are probably toothless.

The case is being transferred to the DOJ’s National Security Division. Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review, says that means the case will be buried. That division deals with matters that usually don’t result in trials.

The indictments may be meant for show, to demonstrate that Mueller is getting results. But they may lead to probes of five Americans who had contact with Guccifer 2.0, an alleged Russian hacker who claims credit for hacking the Democrats’ emails. They could be in trouble for asking for stolen property, the emails.

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is the most prominent of the five. The indictment mentions a person who was in regular contact with Trump’s senior campaign members, who was offered help from Guccifer 2.0. This is thought to be Stone.

Paul Manafort Indictment

Mueller also went after Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He is on trial currently. Manafort is being prosecuted for 18 violations of tax perjury and bank fraud. He is accused of submitting a tax return and lying about its veracity. Bank fraud entails getting money from a bank while intending to defraud someone else.

Manafort also reportedly failed to report income he made from lobbying for Ukrainian politicians. When the money from lobbying dried up in 2015, he obtained $20 million in loans from banks. Meanwhile, he spent lavish amounts of money on U.S. real estate and personal luxuries. He is also accused of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, but that crime is rarely prosecuted.

None of the charges against Manafort are related to collusion with Russia. His attorneys are arguing that the case should be thrown out, since it’s unrelated to Mueller’s task of looking into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

Manafort was forced to step down as Trump’s campaign chair in May 2016 after it came out that he had ties to Russian oligarchs and had lobbied abroad. Last year, federal agents searched his home and seized numerous documents. The trial is expected to last three weeks. Prosecutors expect to call about 35 witnesses to testify. If he is found guilty, he could face up to 305 years in prison.

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In February, his colleague Rick Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He is also accused of failing to report foreign bank accounts. In exchange, he will testify against Manafort. Gates also worked on Trump’s campaign. Trump may pardon Manafort if he’s convicted.

Fishing Expedition?

Others who have been charged by Mueller’s team were not directly accused of collusion with Russia. Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to FBI agents about merely talking to Russians.

Since Mueller has found no direct evidence of collusion yet, some are wondering whether the probe has turned into a fishing expedition. Trump has referred to Mueller’s entire probe as a witch hunt. He has called for AG Jeff Sessions to shut it down. He believes the probe is partisan because Mueller’s team contains mostly Democrats. Mueller is expected to wrap up the probe this month.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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