Dear Commons Community,
In addition to the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates yesterday, a grand jury also handed down an indictment of George Papadopoulos, an advisor to President Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. While Manafort and Gates received most of the headlines, the Papadopoulos indictment may be far more significant. Here is an analysis provided by Business Insider.
“The special counsel’s office unsealed court filings on Monday that demonstrated extensive contact between an early adviser on President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia-linked foreign nationals during the election, raising the stakes for the White House amid Trump’s former campaign chairman’s indictment for financial crimes.
Legal experts say the decision to unseal the court filings related to the Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, hours after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates turned themselves in to the FBI may have been strategic.
“It was revealed at this time, I think, to blunt criticism of the Manafort/Gates indictment for being only tangentially related to Russia (i.e., the money came from the Russian puppet Ukrainians),” said Patrick Cotter, a former assistant US attorney who has worked closely with Mueller in the past and now practices at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.
The Manafort and Gates indictment, unsealed Monday morning, contained 12 counts related mostly to financial crimes like money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. The filing did not mention Trump or the campaign, which allowed Trump to distance himself from Manafort in a tweet on Monday morning.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”
The fact that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal agents about his contact with Russia-linked foreign nationals, however, “is equally, if not more, important” than the Manafort and Gates indictments, Cotter said.
“With Papadopoulos, the prosecutors are saying: ‘Yes, we are making progress on the Russia connection to the Trump campaign and this witness will lead us to other evidence and witnesses. More to come on Russia,'” Cotter said. “It also serves as a warning to people who dealt with Papadopoulos that if they lie about those contacts, the government is in a position to indict them for false statement, obstruction or perjury.”
As The New Yorker‘s Ben Wallace-Wells pointed out, “at every point, crucially, Papadopoulos loops in his superiors—immediate ones, distant ones, and at one point even the candidate himself.”
The fact that Papadopoulos was apprising his superiors of all of his Russia-related correspondences will make it extremely difficult for the Trump campaign to distance itself from his efforts to set up a meeting with high-level Russian officials.”
This is only the beginning!