October 30, 2017

ANDREW MCCARTHY: The Manafort Indictment: Not Much There, and a Boon for Trump.

The Paul Manafort indictment is much ado about nothing . . . except as a vehicle to squeeze Manafort, which is special counsel Robert Mueller’s objective — as we have been arguing for three months (see here, here, and here). Do not be fooled by the “Conspiracy against the United States” heading on Count One (page 23 of the indictment). This case has nothing to do with what Democrats and the media call “the attack on our democracy” (i.e., the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 election, supposedly in “collusion” with the Trump campaign). Essentially, Manafort and his associate, Richard W. Gates, are charged with (a) conspiring to conceal from the U.S. government about $75 million they made as unregistered foreign agents for Ukraine, years before the 2016 election (mainly, from 2006 through 2014), and (b) a money-laundering conspiracy. . . .

The so-called conspiracy against the United States mainly involves Manafort’s and Gates’s alleged failure to file Treasury Department forms required by the Bank Secrecy Act. Specifically, Americans who hold a stake in foreign bank accounts must file what’s known as an “FBAR” (foreign bank account report) in any year in which, at any point, the balance in the account exceeds $10,000. Federal law also requires disclosure of foreign accounts on annual income-tax returns. Manafort and Gates are said to have controlled foreign accounts through which their Ukrainian political-consulting income sluiced, and to have failed to file accurate FBARs and tax returns. In addition, they allegedly failed to register as foreign agents from 2008 through 2014 and made false statements when they belatedly registered.

In the money-laundering conspiracy, they are alleged to have moved money in and out of the United States with the intent to promote “specified unlawful activity.” That activity is said to have been their acting as unregistered foreign agents.

On first glance, Mueller’s case, at least in part, seems shaky and overcharged.

McCarthy’s conclusion: “From President Trump’s perspective, the indictment is a boon from which he can claim that the special counsel has no actionable collusion case. It appears to reaffirm former FBI director James Comey’s multiple assurances that Trump is not a suspect. 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.”

Much more at the link. Hard to see what this has to do with Russian interference in the election, but stay tuned I guess.

And if you missed it when I posted it this morning the indictment is here.

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