Monday, October 30, 2017
Manafort Told to Turn Himself In
And so it begins. Special counsel Robert Mueller has called on former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to surrender himself to authorities for arrest on money laundering and tax evasion charges. The Bill of Indictment can be read in its entirety here.
Apparently Mueller went after Manafort and his co-conspirator, Gates, first as there was a limitations issue. The boys were very nearly off the hook.
There's nothing in the indictment that ties the alleged crimes to Trump or the Trump campaign. There's also no smoking gun that leads to Moscow or Putin.
There is plenty of information linking Manafort's activities to Cyprus, a hotbed for dirty Russian money and the former stomping grounds of Wilbur Ross, Trump's Commerce Secretary. Ross, a legendary vulture capitalist who earned the moniker, "The King of Bankruptcy," was also vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, the island state's largest bank.
There have been various accounts suggesting that questionable money went to Cyprus from Russia and then onto Deutsche Bank before the funds were transmitted to the United States for laundering into real estate assets, especially the pricey stuff in Manhattan.
The indictment seems pretty damning and puts Manafort under a lot of pressure. He'll lose his assets and quite possibly face a really long stretch in the Greybar Hotel. It will also put a lot of people who were involved in the day to day activities of this web of companies and Manafort's transactions in a rather awkward and uncomfortable position. This may be their collective "Come to Jesus" moment where little people and mid-level types become very cooperative with investigators.
The path that appears to me goes from Manafort to Wilbur Ross to Trump with a lot of secondary sweeps along the way. My hunch is that Trump needed money to keep his real estate 'empire' from cratering and bringing down him and his clan. When Trump's access to conventional financing dried up, another source turned up, one that worked best when no questions were asked.
That's the money-laundering part of Mueller's investigation, the bricks and mortar stuff. The glitz, if it can be proved, goes to Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. To get at that, Mueller needs to get Trump's associates to start rolling over on each other. I'm pretty sure that's behind today's arrests and others we may see in the near future.