Monday, Oct. 30 could very well be a day that lives in infamy for the United States. On this day, two of President Trump’s campaign advisors were indited on connected charges of money laundering. On top of this, it was announced that another one of the president’s former campaign advisors pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. These arrests are believed to be involved in the investigation into the influence of the Russian Government in the 2016 election. The investigation, which is being led by Robert Mueller III, is showing the ugly details of the election. With this one day, Trump’s presidency is officially being put into question.
During the 2016 election, Russian hackers got into the Democratic National Committee and released thousands of emails of Hillary Clinton. This was allegedly all due to Vladimir Putin wanting to put Trump in power of the United States.
Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed as head of a special counsel to investigate the alleged Russian interference on May 17. Mueller has slowly been working his way towards his findings. Monday was the first big move taken by the special counsel in a search to learn the truth in the matter.
The two big names to be indited on Monday were Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Manafort is a former campaign manager and Gates, an associate of Manafort, was a campaign advisor. The two were charged with laundering at least $75 million. Officially, they are being charged with 12 criminal counts pertaining to their work in the Ukraine. Manafort is also being charged with foreign lobbying as he worked to try and bring Viktor Yanukovych, a leader who supported Russian action, into power in the Ukraine. Gates has a bail of $5 million while Manafort has a bail of $10 million. If both men are convicted, they face a large jail sentence, estimated to be around 20 years.
The money that is in question was laundered through foreign bank accounts. Specifically, the banks used were located in Cyprus, the Grenadines and other remote locations. He purchased expensive cars, real estate, rugs and clothing. Basically, Manafort lived a lavish life through these means. For example, he had an antique rug estimated to be worth around $900,000. The case against Manafort makes Trump look particularly bad; the week before the arrest, a White House lawyer announced that the president was confident that there would be not be any evidence that would be harmful to Manafort.
Perhaps the most important information revealed did not have anything to do with Manafort or Gates. On Monday, it was revealed that the former foreign policy advisor to Trump’s campaign, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. It was also announced that Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators on the special counsel for months. Reportedly, in March of 2016, Papadopoulos met with a professor based in London that has ties with the Russian government. From here it is known that Papadopoulos tried to set up a meeting in Russia for Trump.
From here the investigation takes an interesting twist. Mueller is using the crimes that these men have committed to get information out of them. Papadopoulos has enough evidence against him to be put in prison for a very long time. However, due to the fact that he is cooperating with Mueller’s team, he is only being charged with a false statement, which holds a maximum sentence of five years. Mueller is also looking to do the same with Manafort and Gates to try and figure out as much information as possible for the investigation.
Many investigators are worried that if Trump is involved, he may pardon Manafort and Gates to try and protect others. Mueller protected himself from this by charging them in both the state and federal courts. Because of this, Trump can only pardon the federal charges, which leaves the state cases still intact.
This puts Trump in a tough situation, as, if the allegations are true, this cases becomes reminiscent of the Watergate scandal. Trump can let the investigation play out, which could lead to him being charged, followed by an impeachment. The other option people are worried about is the same action Nixon took: firing those around him and the people in charge of the investigation. This would bring down a hail storm on Trump as Congress would have to get involved, like the Watergate Scandal.
James Allan, the head of the political science department at Wittenberg, commented on the effect this could have on the public.
“It would, or should, be very troubling for all American voters if political candidates were established to be colluding with what is often regarded as a hostile state, Russia, to influence a democratic election in the U.S., but even in the absence of evidence of collusion, the plentiful evidence that Russian sources have interfered in the election, as well as in the elections of other democracies like France and Germany, is troubling enough,” Allan said.
This is an interesting time in American politics as no one can force their eyes off of the rough issue that is at hand in the U.S.