Paul Manafort and his long-time protege Richard Gates were both indicted today.
Manafort’s indictment comes as no surprise given the July pre-dawn FBI raid on his home.
Manafort and 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, lying to investigators and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
The indictment asserts that Manafort and Gates served as unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian Political Party) and Victor Yanukovych (President of the Party of Regions).
Manafort and Gates are alleged to have funneled approximately $75 million through offshore accounts and laundered more than $18 million through multiple corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.
The time-frame of “unregistered agent” activities is alleged to have been “between at least 2006 and 2015”. Money laundering activities are alleged to have occurred “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016”.
The indictment contained no links to President Trump or any Trump Campaign-related charges.
The full Indictment can be found here.
The first (lead) charge is conspiracy (1) to defraud the United States and (2) to fail to file reports of foreign bank accounts, to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, and to make false statements to the government.
The second charge is a conspiracy to launder money.
The third set of charges (Counts Three through Six) accuses Manafort with failing to file mandatory reports of foreign bank accounts.
The fourth set of charges (Counts Seven through Nine) accuses Gates with failing to file mandatory reports of foreign bank accounts.
The fifth charge (Count Ten) accuses Manafort and Gates of failing to file a statement of registration as a foreign agent.
The sixth charge (Count Eleven) accuses Manafort and Gates of making false statements about foreign agent registration.
The seventh charge (Count Twelve) accuses Manafort and Gates of lying to government investigators.
The FARA charges are what make this indictment especially interesting.
FARA, or Foreign Agents Registration Act was enacted for the purpose of ensuring that “the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws”.
FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.
The AP reported in 2016 that Manafort “helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy”.
The two lobbying firms were the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC.
From the AP article:
During the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president’s political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit [European Centre for a Modern Ukraine] that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.
The founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, is the brother of longtime Democratic strategist John Podesta, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The head of Mercury, Vin Weber, is an influential Republican, former congressman and former special policy adviser to Mitt Romney.
The European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.
The nonprofit also paid $1.07 million over roughly the same period to Mercury to lobby Congress. Among other issues, Mercury opposed congressional efforts to pressure Ukraine to release one of Yanukovych’s political rivals from prison.
The Manafort/Gates indictment does not directly name either the Podesta Group or Mercury LLC. Instead, it refers to Company A and Company B.
From the Manafort Indictment:
As part of the scheme, in February 2012, Manafort and Gates solicited two Washington D.C. firms (Company A and Company B) to lobby in the United States on behalf of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the Government of Ukraine.
At the direction of Manafort and Gates, Company A and Company B engaged in extensive lobbying. Among other things, they lobbied multiple Members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymonshenko.
To minimize public disclosure of their lobbying campaign, Manafort and Gates arranged for the Centre [European Centre for a Modern Ukraine] to be the nominal client of Company A and Company B, even though in fact the Centre was under the ultimate direction of the Government of Ukraine, Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.
Company A and Company B were paid for their services not by their nominal client, the Centre, but solely through off-shore accounts associated with the Manafort-Gates entities.
Company A and Company B are the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, both Mercury and the Podesta Group have maintained they were unaware the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine was controlled by the Ukrainian government. Both firms claimed this was why they had not registered FARA disclosures from the start.
Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group, his powerful Washington firm, are now caught up in a federal criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. They may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to properly disclose work completed on behalf of a pro-Vladimir Putin Ukrainian think tank to the Justice Department.
By filing a retroactive FARA disclosure this April, the firm admitted those lobbying efforts, which took place between 2012 and 2014 on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, may have principally benefited that country’s government. The investigation of Podesta grew out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Paul Manafort, according to NBC News.
This indictment presents direct evidence to contradict both the Podesta Group and Mercury.
Within hours of today’s Manafort indictment, it was reported that Tony Podesta would be stepping down from his role as Chairman of the Podesta Group:
Democratic power lobbyist Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group, is stepping down from the firm that bears his name after coming under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Podesta announced his decision during a firm-wide meeting Monday morning and is alerting clients of his impending departure.
Overlooked in the article was the apparent fact that the firm would essentially be dismantled and then re-formed under a new name – and new leadership:
Podesta is handing over full operational and financial control of the firm to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, according to multiple sources with knowledge of Monday’s meeting. Fritts and a senior group of the Podesta team will be launching a new firm in the next one or two days. Sources said the transition has been in the works for the past several months.
The Podesta Group was forced to file a retroactive FARA disclosure in April…
Tony, and John Podesta – as chairman of Hillary’s Campaign – are rightly concerned. They are both enmeshed in this.
Hillary Clinton, her campaign and the DNC were officially behind the funding of the Trump Dossier. John Podesta had to be involved on some level.
Fusion GPS, who commissioned the Trump Dossier, was hired by the Clinton Campaign and was also apparently employed by Russia at exactly the same time it was working on the Trump Dossier.
The FBI utilized this propaganda – directly sourced from Russia and paid for by the DNC and Clinton’s Campaign – as the reason for launching the entire Trump-Russian investigation in the first place.
The FBI then used this dossier as a primary basis for generating FISA surveillance warrants on the Trump campaign.
I cover all of this in The Clinton Dossier Disclosures and Fusion GPS, the Trump Dossier, Russian Money & the Magnitsky Act.
The entire upper echelon of the Obama Administration was intimately involved.
As was Senator John McCain.
John McCain personally delivered the Trump Dossier to FBI Director James Comey:
Senator John McCain, who was informed about the existence of the documents separately by an intermediary from a western allied state, dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source and then decided to present the material to Comey in a one-on-one meeting on 9 December.
To make matters even more surreal, it turns out that John McCain has material and long-standing ties to many of the same individuals named in today’s indictment. As reported by Circa’s Sara Carter:
Exactly one decade earlier it was McCain’s own presidential campaign that was being roiled by concerns of possible Russian influence in his own inner circle.
McCain’s drama involved the same foreign lobbyist Paul Manafort; one of the same Russian oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska; the same Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, and the same wily Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, that now dominate the current Trump controversy.
McCain actually met twice with Deripaska, a Russian businessman and Putin ally whose visa was blocked by the United States amidst intelligence community concerns about his ties to Moscow. The meetings were arranged by Manafort and his lobbying firm partner Rick Davis, who later would become McCain’s campaign manager.
Davis was McCain’s campaign manager in both 2000 and 2008.
During the 2008 campaign, the Davis Manafort firm disclosed through its U.S. partner Daniel J. Edelman Inc., that it was working for the political party [Party of Regions] in Ukraine supporting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Putin.
Quite the tangled web.
So much so, one has to wonder at the seemingly random connections.
Whatever the outcome, I can all but promise this:
President Trump will not be implicated.
Mueller has nothing on President Trump.
Even CNN’s Jim Acosta seemed to take note:
Statement from Manafort attorney: “There is no evidence the Trump Campaign colluded with the Russia government.” pic.twitter.com/c5D4fy8U1S
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) October 30, 2017
It must have killed him to have to send out that tweet.
Everything has boomeranged back onto Democrats. Exactly as anyone who’s been paying attention has known.
The real question is exactly how far will Mueller choose to pursue his leads.
Some maintain that Mueller was brought in – through Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – by President Trump to investigate Democratic Corruption and tear into the Deep State. It’s worth noting that Rosenstein has full authority to expand Mueller’s Investigation if he chooses to do so.
Others – a majority – maintain Mueller is on a Democratic-driven witch hunt – set on finding evidence of President Trump’s collusion with Russia.
Whichever way you lean, the following has become obvious.
President Trump did not collude with Russia. Democrats most certainly did.
Manafort and the Podesta Brothers lead straight to Hillary, Uranium One, the DNC and on to the entire Obama Administration – including Obama himself.
Which places Mueller – no matter his true intentions – in a difficult position.
There are three options as I see it.
- Mueller can follow all leads to their just end. This scenario ends up with meaningful members of the Obama Administration charged – perhaps implicating Obama himself – certainly Hillary. I would love this option but find it hard to see as a real possibility. The Left would also go berserk.
- Mueller tries to thread the needle, following up on charges put forth today while trying to avoid implicating those at the very top – especially Obama. This is a real possibility but it could prove dangerous for him. At some point you’ve exposed too much to stop – and you fall into scenario 1.
- Mueller can go out with a whimper. He can issue a statement saying he’s found no evidence of President Trump’s collusion with Russia and attempt to quietly close the investigation down.
History would indicate we get option 3.
Both the Left and the Right would lose their minds – and new investigations may then be formed – but it’s not an unlikely outcome.
Personally, I am hopeful that more concrete investigations are currently underway – with more indictments to follow.
But I also think there might be something more subtle going on.
Consider what is really being targeted in the Manafort Indictment.
There are some smart people who are already outlining how the government’s case against Manafort is not all that strong. Andrew McCarthy is one of those. He makes his case in The Manafort Indictment: Not Much There, and a Boon for Trump.
If so, why did Mueller move forth? Pure distraction from Uranium One and Clinton’s funding of the Trump Dossier?
But there is a larger message being sent to the denizens of the DC Swamp.
Intentionally or otherwise, Mueller is in the process of making it known that the Clinton Era of Influence Selling is finally coming to a close.
It seems that Tony Podesta got that message. Loudly and clearly.
The decision for Podesta to step down was clearly planned in advance of the Manafort Indictment – even if Tony wasn’t the one deciding..
When people like Podesta step down, they lose their power – and other dominoes begin to fall.
Call it the Weinstein Effect.
Read into that as much as you care to…
Where do we go from here?
Mueller’s next step (or non-step) may tell us where he is really heading:
If Tony Podesta isn’t arrested soon, we’ll have a pretty good indication of whether Mueller is following the evidence or not.
— Richard Baris (@Peoples_Pundit) October 30, 2017
Baris is right.
If Tony Podesta and/or John Podesta are not indicted in the near future we will have a better indication as to Mueller’s true intentions.
If the Podesta Brothers are indicted than we will know that Mueller is more serious than many previously imagined. An outcome that should leave the Clintons feeling…edgy.
Either way, this process will lead to a tempering of influence-peddling institutions – such as the Podesta Group and the Clinton Foundation.
And that is a great thing for our country.
In closing, I’ve included this video from a Tucker Carlson segment that I used in The Clinton Dossier Disclosures. The story that Tucker breaks has even more relevance in light of today’s events.
So much so, it was worth re-posting:
For those who prefer transcripts I have reprinted Tucker’s comments in full:
We’re beginning tonight with a story we just learned a few hours ago, a story that amazed us. Last night on this show we told you about how The Podesta Group, a lobbying firm, co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother Tony had been sucked into independent counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in American politics.
Before last night’s show was even over, we got an email from a man with direct personal knowledge of that story. The man, whose name we can’t reveal for the time being, is a former senior employee of The Podesta Group. He worked there for years. He said he was motivated to contact us by the disgust he felt watching media coverage of the Russia story. Not only were most reporters getting it wrong, he said, they were getting it backward. The Russians were in fact deeply involved in American politics, but the real story had almost nothing to do with the 2016 presidential campaign.
Intrigued, we agreed to meet with a source today. He just left our offices here in Washington a couple of hours ago. The story he told us is astonishing. We will be following up on it, confirming more of it and bringing you details throughout this week and after.
But first, here’s an overview of what he told us. Media reports describe Paul Manafort as a central figure in the Russia investigation due to the several months he spent as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. According to our source, that’s only half true. Manafort is indeed at the center of this investigation, but not because of his ties to Trump. In fact, Paul Manafort spent years working with The Podesta Group on behalf of Russian government interests. That relationship extends back to at least 2011 when our source claims Manafort had dinner with both Podestas, Tony and John. In the years following, our sources says he saw Paul Manafort in The Podesta Group offices “all the time.” At least once a month. Manafort was not there to socialize, he was representing Russian business and political interests, who sought to influence Capitol Hill, Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and the Obama administration.
Our source describes Manafort bringing what he called a parade of Russian oligarchs up to the Congress where they met with members and their staffs. But the central effort to extend Russian influence was focused on the executive branch, the Obama administration. The vehicle through which Paul Manafort worked for the Russians was a shell group called the ‘European Center for a Modern Ukraine.’
The group supposedly was based in Belgium, but it had no actual offices there. It had in fact only two employees, both of them based in Ukraine. Their telephone number in Brussels rang in Kiev, it was a sham. Yet, it did have a presence here in Washington. The European Center for a Modern Ukraine was a major client of The Podesta Group. Now, why did the Russians choose The Podesta Group? Well because both Podestas were close to the Clintons and Hillary was then Secretary of State. She could get things done for the Podesta’s Russian clients.
It was influence peddling, the most obvious kind. For example, our source says that at John Podesta’s recommendation, his brother Tony hired a man named David Adams. Before joining The Podesta Group, Adams worked at the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. He was also chief legislative advisor to Hillary Clinton. As part of his job, Adams personally briefed Hillary Clinton every day. He aided in the confirmation of at least 122 political nominees at State. By hiring him in 2013, our source says, The Podesta Group got a direct liaison between their offices and by extension their Russian clients, and Hillary’s State Department.
Sometimes, our source said, ties between The Podesta Group and the Clintons were explicit. Tony Podesta spoke regularly to Hillary Clinton while she ran the State Department. Our source remembers Podesta’s assistant announcing that “Secretary Clinton is on the line.”
At one point in either 2013 or maybe early 2014 our source says a meeting was held that included both Tony Podesta and a representative of the Clinton Foundation. The explicit subject of that meeting? How to assist Uranium One, that’s the Russian-owned company that controls 20% of American uranium production, and whose board members gave more than $100 million to the Clinton Foundation. As our source put it, Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.
Now, apparently, there was not a lot of pretending about this internally at The Podesta Group. According to our source, Manafort was clear, crystal clear that Russia wanted to cultivate ties to Hillary Clinton in the belief she was likely to become president. These links to Hillary were apparently quite valuable to the Russian. Our source believes that the Russian money Manafort funneled to The Podesta Group greatly exceeds the roughly one million they were officially paid. That’s what he said. Some of these payments he indicated could be hidden kickbacks that would be hard for investigators to trace. Our source described The Podesta Group books as “a treasure trove, and highly secret.”
He told us The Podesta Group had no board overseeing it and that all financial decisions internally were made by Tony Podesta personally. The group’s employees he said, included a person whose only official job was managing Tony Podesta’s art collection. It would be obviously pretty easy for an organization like that to conceal financial transactions. Now, the source we spoke to has been interviewed extensively by Robert Mueller’s independent investigators. The press account of Mueller’s investigation is still framed as a hunt for collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia.
Our source says investigators are in fact very interested in Manafort’s behavior while he ran the Trump campaign, but otherwise, that description is mostly bogus. The investigation has broadened now to determine which people and which organizations in Washington have spent years working secretly as de facto operatives on behalf of Russian government and business interests. The Podesta Group is chief among these.
“They are more focused on facilitators of Russian influence in this country,” says our source, then they are on election collusion. “The Podesta Group he says, “is in their crosshairs.” We should note the obvious, that many of the lobbying efforts our source described to us today are not yet illegal necessarily and that tells you a lot about modern American politics.
But if true, the story we heard overturns much of what we think we know about Russian attempts to influence American policy. We believe our source is telling the truth. We don’t think he has reason to lie to us. The facts we’ve been able to check have turned out to be accurate. We believe our source has exposed behavior that undermines this country, but that, unfortunately, is common here in Washington. We plan to proceed carefully as we report this out, but we will proceed bringing you everything went find. We suspect there’s a lot there.
Yes, Tucker, we most certainly do…
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