Robert Mueller’s special counsel was tasked with “a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. And yet, the indictments announced today against former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates don’t seem to have much to do with that at all. In fact, they’re mostly financial crimes.
This is not all that surprising, according to Lisa Kern Griffin, professor of law at Duke University. Manafort was under scrutiny long before Mueller’s investigation began and so it makes sense that those issues would come up first.
“There’s nothing to suggest there won’t be additional charges. This does not have the feeling of an endgame at all,” Griffin said. “This is the very beginning.”
The indictment is 31 pages with charges dating as far back as 2006. Manafort and Gates are accused of making millions of dollars lobbying for a pro-Russia campaign in Ukraine and laundering that money through various offshore accounts and shell companies in order to hide its origins and avoid paying U.S. taxes. Both Manafort and Gates pled not guilty to the charges of tax fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.