Former Trump advisers Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos are under scrutiny by Robert Mueller’s special counsel.
Plattsburgh State Political Science Professor Dr. Raymond Carman believes there is legitimacy to the case against former members of the Trump campaign. “[Manafort] clearly has connections [to Russia],” he said, “other individuals high up in the campaign met with Russia. Is that necessarily saying that President Trump colluded with Russia? Not necessarily, but there is certainly enough there to warrant inquiry” he said.
The special counsel, formed on May 17 earlier this year, was created to investigate “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote in a letter announcing the appointment of Robert Mueller to the special counsel.
Leading the investigation is former FBI director Robert Mueller. Chosen for his broad support among both Republicans and Democrats, Mueller and the his team have spent the last seven months investigating and compiling evidence against former members of the Trump campaign.
On Oct. 30, the special counsel revealed multiple charges against three former members. Among the charges include: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and false statements. The most notable member among the accused is Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman during the Republican National Convention until his resignation in August of 2016.
Manafort surrendered to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of laundering millions of dollars through oversea shell companies and spending the money on lavish items such as cars, rugs, clothes and real estate. In the indictment, the special counsel also claims both Manafort and Gates worked as “unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine.” and failed to report the income from their time with the Ukrainian Government.
Gates, who was brought on the Trump campaign by Manafort after he became chairman, was responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the campaign and was the one who took the blame for the apparent plagiarism in the speech Melania Trump delivered during the RNC. Gates is being charged with the same counts as Manafort and also pleaded not guilty after surrendering to the FBI.
Manafort and Gates had “funneled millions of dollars in payments into foreign nominee companies and bank accounts,” the indictment reads, “[They] hid the existence of the foreign companies and bank accounts, falsely and repeatedly reporting to their tax preparers and to the United States that they had no foreign bank accounts.”
Both Manafort and Gates had foreign bank accounts in the islands of Cyprus, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and the Seychelles according to the indictment. In all, Manafort and Gates had stashed more than $75 million in overseas accounts.
Former foreign policy adviser to the Trump Campaign George Papadopoulos was also charged by the special counsel. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with the special counsel.
Papadopoulos was arrested after deactivating his Facebook account containing exchanges with Russians shortly after being questioned by FBI agents on July 17 of this year. Pleading guilty was a part of a plea bargain offered to Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos initially grabbed the special counsel’s attention after meeting with University of Stirling diplomacy professor Joseph Mifsud, who has ties to the Russian government, in Italy last year. Papadopoulos reportedly attempted to organize a meeting between the Trump campaign and the the Russian Government through Mifsud according to court documents.
The FBI already believes the Russian Government made an effort to help tip the election in Trump’s favor. Now the special counsel is accusing members of the Trump campaign of seeking help from Russia as well.
Some have expressed concern the Trump administration will try to derail and distract away from Mueller’s investigation.
“Time and time again, we have seen Trump downplay the news each time a new piece of information regarding the Mueller investigation comes out,” PSUC Journalism student Nate Mundt said.
Mundt believes Trump and his staff attempts to distract the public away from the investigation, and instead tries to have them focus on unrelated topics.
Both Mundt and Dr. Carman believe students should stay informed on the ongoing investigation and participate in our democracy. “Read and make your voice known.” Dr. Carman said.
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