5 Things to Know About Paul Manafort's Arrest in the Mueller Trump-Russia Probe
On Monday morning, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort turned himself in to federal authorities. The New York Times' Matt Apuzzo reported that his arrest is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Here is a video of Manafort and his lawyer walking into the FBI office.
Paul Manafort and his longtime protege Richard Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment included no explicitly campaign-related charges.
Here are five things to keep in mind about Manafort amidst this revelation.
1. He was in bed with the Russians from the beginning.
When Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as his convention manager, PJ Media reported Manafort's close relationship with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych supported Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time when most Ukrainians wanted to join the EU. After he became president (thanks in part to Manafort's convention expertise) in 2010, Yanukovych was ousted by protesters in 2014.
Manafort first entered the world of Russian oligarchs in 2006, when he began working for Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties with Putin. Manafort made $10 million per year under Deripaska, according to The Washington Post, and he also got hired by Yanukovych's pro-Putin Party of Regions around that time.
Last August, a ledger from the Party of Regions listed $12.7 million in cash payments designated for Manafort between 2007 and 2012. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine also reported investigating Yanukovych for a group of offshore shell companies. The former president reportedly enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, including a palace with a private zoo, golf course, and tennis court.
2. Why Trump hired Manafort.
Such revelations bring special emphasis to the question of why Donald Trump hired Manafort in the first place. Did Trump intend to give Russia a seat at the table in his campaign?
The timing of Manafort's hiring and demotion (and subsequent resignation) suggests something else. Manafort first earned his reputation as a master of political conventions at the Republican National Committee in 1980, when he helped Ronald Reagan secure the Republican nomination.
Manafort's experience with Yanukovych — shady as it was — also demonstrated his prowess at getting controversial candidates through the convention process.
Trump hired Manafort mere months before the Republican National Convention, and at the time, there was serious chatter about using convention rules to deny Trump the Republican nomination. Shortly after the convention went off without a hitch, Trump demoted Manafort, who subsequently resigned.
Trump's decision to hire Manafort may have been a grievous mistake, but in terms of the challenge at hand and the most likely reason Trump hired Manafort, the decision proved successful. It seems that Trump made the calculation that it was worth it to hire a man with a shady past, so long as he could get the job done.
The timing suggests Trump did not hire Manafort in order to "collude" with Russia, but to win at the Republican National Convention. More revelations may suggest otherwise, but the mere act of hiring Manafort does not prove "collusion."
3. The wiretap.
Manafort was (rightly) under surveillance before the 2016 election, but the probity of the U.S. government snooping on Manafort became suspect when he joined Trump's campaign.
Last month, CNN reported that Manafort was wiretapped before and after the election, spying that continued into early this year, when Manafort was known to be speaking with President Trump.
A court working under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) ordered wiretapping of Trump campaign officials, but the FISA order began when Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. The surveillance was paused in 2016 for lack of evidence, but then resumed after a new FISA warrant was obtained.
Manafort resigned in August of last year, but he continued to speak with Trump afterward. He has denied he ever "knowingly" communicated with Russian intelligence during the election and has also denied participating in any Russian efforts to "undermine the interests of the United States."
While the first wiretap began in 2014 as a result of investigations into Yanukovych, the second wiretap began in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. With President Barack Obama still in office, and firmly behind Donald Trump's opposition, this raised issues of propriety — even though Manafort has confirmed connections to Putin's international money-laundering.
4. The FBI raid.
The FBI raided Manafort's Virginia home in July, in a way that was "heavy-handed and designed to intimidate." The raid began while Manafort and his wife were sleeping, lasted ten hours, and involved a dozen federal agents.
The agents entered Manafort's condo without warning at about 6 a.m. Eastern and did not leave until around 4 p.m. Eastern. The raid came the same week Manafort appeared before the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees and provided documents on a voluntary basis.
As more evidence surfaces in the Manafort case, the FBI will likely reveal why the raid occurred. Perhaps such measures were indeed necessary to convict Manafort.
5. Does this spell doom for Clinton allies?
At least one of the charges on which Manafort was indicted should spark fear in some notable allies of Hillary Clinton. The charge of misleading FARA statements — lying on documents required by the Federal Agents Registration Act — might also apply to Tony Podesta, who co-founded the Podesta Group with Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager John Podesta, and who served as a Clinton bundler last year.
Earlier this month, Mueller broadened his investigation to include Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group. According to anonymous sources cited by NBC News, the Podesta investigation began as a fact-finding mission into Manafort's role with a pro-Ukraine nonprofit during Yanukovych's tenure. The Podesta Group also served that nonprofit.
The Mueller probe has reportedly launched a criminal inquiry into whether the Podesta Group also violated FARA, an allegation PJ Media reported last April. While failure to register as a lobbyist on behalf of foreign governments under FARA is not usually heavily enforced, the circumstances of this case give FARA violations a particular gravity.
The arrests of Manafort and Gates are not good news for President Trump, but they do not necessarily prove the "collusion" narrative. More information will have to be unearthed in order to address the broader claim that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to undermine the election.
Recent bombshells about Hillary Clinton should also not be forgotten. This month, it was revealed that the FBI kept an investigation into the Russian firm Rosatom secret, just at the time when Hillary Clinton was considering approving the Uranium One deal — and when her husband received a hefty payment from a bank supporting Uranium One. At the same time, the FBI acted quickly to bust a Russian spy ring because it got too close to Clinton.
Worse, it was revealed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC hired Fusion GPS and former British spy Christopher Steele to compile the Trump-Russia dossier, which was later used to obtain FISA court approval for surveillance.
Furthermore, the Clinton campaign and the DNC now face an FEC complaint because they listed payments to the law firm Perkins Coie (through which they hired Fusion GPS) as paying for "legal services," not opposition research. This further legal violation raises questions about what the Clinton campaign was trying to hide.
Fusion GPS also worked with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Is it possible the Clinton campaign tried to set up the infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Veselnitskaya?
The Manafort arrest is bad news for Trump, but it does not prove the "collusion" narrative. Federal investigations usually do not stop with the initial indictments, so it is likely others will be arrested as well. Mueller could call more Trump associates, but he could also call Tony Podesta.