These are the first indictments in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months in 2016, will face charges today as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to a report by the New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo. Multiple news outlets report that Manafort will turn himself in today. Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates will also face charges.
However, the crucial question of just what those charges actually are — and whether they relate to events that took place during the Trump campaign, or preceded it — remains unanswered as of early Monday morning.
Mueller’s team is most interested in the question of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, and whether any Trump associates played any role in this interference. And Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager during a crucial period in 2016 — a period that included the Republican convention, and the first Wikileaks releases of hacked Democratic emails.
Yet Manafort also has done work for pro-Russian interests and oligarchs, and particularly a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, for over a decade. And there was a preexisting FBI investigation about whether Manafort appropriately disclosed his foreign work, and whether he was involved in illegal money laundering or other financial crimes — an investigation that Mueller took over once he was appointed.
For months, Manafort has appeared to be a major focus of Mueller’s probe. Back in July, the FBI raided Manafort’s house for documents. There was a report that he’d been wiretapped, and emails revealed that he tried to set up private briefings for a Russian billionaire while chairing Trump’s campaign.
But it’s been much speculated that Mueller’s team is hoping to use tough charges to get Manafort to agree to some sort of cooperation deal — to give them more information on the collusion matter (if he has any). That is: They’d hope that he’d flip against Trump, other Trump associates, or potentially Russians, should he have any information incriminating any of them.