When Paul Manafort and his deputy Richard Gates were the first people to be indicted in this Trump-Russia investigation last fall (technically the second and third, as foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was indicted a few months before them, but it was announced the day theirs was too), word on the street was that it looked like the special counsel was setting up to file superseding indictments on them both. Today, the other shoe dropped as the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia just announced a new indictment.
It’s incredibly opaque and it details a complex, byzantine scheme to launder $30 million through a dizzying web of shell companies and real estate properties. Here is an example of what Donald Trump’s former campaign manager is accused of.
Financial crimes are far closer to the rule than the exception in Washington D.C. At the end of the day, what drives interest in this story is: does any of this trace back to Donald Trump?
Short answer: No. There is nothing in this indictment that specifically names the president or any entity that’s clearly affiliated with him.
Long answer: Maybe?
The dates of some charges overlap with Manafort's stewardship of the campaign, like this one:
On or about and between April 2016 and January 2017, both dates being approximate and inclusive, in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and RICHARD W. GATES III did knowingly and intentionally conspire to execute a scheme and artifice to defraud one or more financial institutions.
Between in or around 2015 and the present, both dates being approximate and inclusive, in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, MANAFORT, GATES, and others devised and intended to devise, and executed and intended to execute, a scheme and artifice to defraud, and to obtain money and property, by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, from banks and other financial institutions.
Which means that it's very possible that Donald Trump's campaign chairman committed a financial crime(s) while serving as head of his campaign. However, the word “campaign” doesn't even appear in the indictment, so it's impossible to determine solely by this document as to whether these crimes involve the Trump camp or not. Last week, we were inundated with reports that Rick Gates was about to plead guilty to Robert Mueller—ostensibly striking a deal—but The Daily Beast reported at the same time this indictment was released that Gates is not making a deal, and that he actually fired his lawyer. However, the lawyer that The Daily Beast is reporting was fired just entered an appearance in court as Gates' lawyer. This portion of the saga is just bizarre.
The only other potentially (obviously) significant development in this indictment as it relates to Donald Trump is one of the shell companies listed in the indictment (about 12 pages of this 37-page indictment are dedicated to listing the various transactions that the special counsel is alleging are illegal, and the shell companies, vendors and properties which facilitated them). Per an NBC report from last March titled “Ex-Trump Aide Manafort Bought New York Homes With Cash” (emphasis mine):
In 2006, the year he reportedly began working for [pro-Putin oligarch Oleg] Deripaska, Manafort bought a condo in Trump Tower for $3,675,000 through an LLC called John Hannah. John is Manafort’s middle name, and Hannah is the middle name of that of his then-business partner, Rick Davis.
Per the new indictment:
Again, there is absolutely nothing in this indictment specifically tying Manafort’s activity to Donald Trump, but it’s hard to miss the fact that one of the LLCs Manafort allegedly laundered cash through in 2006 has the same name as an entity that he bought a condo in Trump Tower with in 2006. And that’s before you get to the fact that Trump Taj Mahal paid a $10 million fine and admitted to a slew of money laundering violations, or that Trump Tower in Manhattan has historically been crawling with criminals of every stripe.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.