Paul Manafort, the former campaign chief of Donald Trump, has turned himself in to the FBI on Monday as part of the investigation into the Russian plot by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to US media, a grand jury, accepted on Friday the first charges filed by Robert Mueller investigator involved in the Russian probe. Manafort has been charged with the crime of “conspiracy against the United States” and attempts to launder money, among others. Together with a partner of his, Rick Gates, they have been hit with 12 criminal charges.
Even though the charges appear serious, there is little to link President Trump.
— Isaac Adler (@IsaacAdlerNY) October 30, 2017
And it also appears that Tony Podesta the brother of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta is also being mentioned to be involved with Paul Manafort
Tony Podesta is next!
— Ise Malaka (@ise_malaka) October 30, 2017
What is being investigated?
The United States accuses Russia of stealing e-mails from the Democratic Party that was distributed to Wikileaks in the run-up to the November presidential elections in order to help Trump win the election. Several people around Trump have ties with Russia. The FBI and Congress are investigating if there was any kind of coordination between the Trump team and the Russian government in the supposed electoral interference.
Why was the FBI director fired?
Trump dismissed Comey as director of the FBI on May 9. He was the lead police agency investigating into alleged ties between the Trump team and Russian interference during the campaign. The president initially argued that he dismissed him on the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, for Comey’s handling of the private server case of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Since his ouster, Comey has become a nightmare for the White House, and Democrats. The ex-director of the FBI has also faced accusations of leaking info to the media and since his dismissal: Claimed that Trump asked him for a “loyalty” pledge and that he refused to give it, and that he also urged with him regarding the investigation to Michael Flynn, who was the The President’s first National Security Adviser, for his links with Russia.
What will the special prosecutor do?
On May 16, and as was confirmed by Comey in the Senate, Trump asked him on February 14, the day after Flynn resigned, that the FBI close the investigation on his former Security Counselor, in what Democrats claim was intent to interfere. Comey refused to do it. This news stoked a political storm.
The next day, the Justice Department announced that Rosenstein had decided to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian plot. That is to say, an independent figure that will be able to present criminal charges, after the dismissal of Comey, both the FBI and Justice department where accused of political interference by both Republicans and Democrats.
Trump knew of the decision abrumptly and did not hide his discomfort. He said he was the object of a “witch hunt.”
Comey admitted in the Senate that he asked a friend to leak his notes he took from his contacts with Trump to the media to try to force the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The chosen prosecutor is Robert Mueller, director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, a veteran jurist, persevering and respected by Democrats and Republicans. The figure of the independent prosecutor guarantees, at least theoretically, that the investigation will reach an end, which increases the risks for the White House but also the relief if nothing irregular is found. In parallel, the investigations of different committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the Russian plot are ongoing.
Has Trump done anything illegal?
For now, it has not been proven that there was any kind of coordination between Trump or his advisors in terms of the Russian cyber attack. “There was no collusion of me or of my campaign, but I can only speak for myself: with Russia, zero,” the president said the following day after designation of the special prosecutor. In his testimony, Comey confirmed that Trump was not being investigated and that the president denied having committed anything wrong.
The revelation that Trump asked Comey for the FBI to stop investigating Flynn or “clear the cloud” of the Russian plot can be interpreted as an attempt to obstruct justice, which would be a crime. However, to be able to accuse him of committing that crime, it would have to be shown that he had an intention to obstruct justice, which is complex to prove. Clear evidence of that collusion would be necessary.
What do Democrats and Republicans say?
Democratic lawmakers have been calling for the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian plot for almost a year. They are satisfied with the appointment, they feel that Trump is more cornered and even some speak of promoting a process of impeachment against the president.
But that possibility seems remote given that there must be criminal motives and a majority support of Congress is needed. Currently, the Republican Party controls the two branches of government. The majority of conservative legislators applauded the appointment of Mueller, but without doubting the honesty of Trump. And during the appearance of Comey, some senators stressed that there is no clear evidence of collusion.
There is also the links of the Uranium One sale to Russian and the links Robert Mueller, these allegations have recently put Mueller in a corner.