The former adviser and Manafort business associate is reportedly nearing a deal with Mueller’s team and will plead guilty to fraud charges in the next few days, according to the Times.
Gates and Manafort were both indicted in Mueller’s probe in October and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
QUESTION: Is Special Council Robert Mueller's case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort so weak and shaky that he needs Rick Gates to testify against him? The answer is "yes." Mueller's indictment of Manafort for money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy against the US is unprecedented in American legal history and ridiculous in the extreme; In fact, it is so novel, unheard of and unique that it can only be compared to itself.
Indeed, it is an indictment born out of frustration by a corrupt, out of control prosecutor on a witch hunt who in the absence of finding any real, solid serious crimes against a defendant he obviously hates invented new, seemingly serious crimes and pinned them on him. There's no better way to put it.
FRUITLESS FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS OF MANAFORT
Look at the facts: starting in 2014, prior to Mueller becoming special council, the FBI, DOJ, the IRS's Criminal Investigation Unit (as well as the CIA, NSA and DNI) were hard at work investigating Paul Manafort for financial and national security crimes - as related to his work as an unregistered lobbyist for the pro-Putin Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych* - and in his extensive dealings with Ukranian and Russian businessmen. But dig as they did (and they went very deep) no one of these federal agencies could find a smoking gun (or so much as a cap pistol) to take Manafort down (see). And to date, despite appearances, Robert Mueller has been no luckier. Mueller and his team carefully and painstakingly sifted through the mountain of information they obtained from every prior investigation hoping that something incriminating was missed; but they found zilch**.
*Yanukovych was ousted as Ukraine's President in 2014, and fled to Russia for asylum.
**Incredibly, Mueller has resurrected several failed Manafort FBI and Treasury Dept. investigations from the past that he's using to supercede his original indictment expanding the original 12 counts to 32 (see).
THE OVER THE TOP NO KNOCK GUNS DRAWN RAID
Then in late July an exasperated Mueller (inspired by his pitbull Andrew Weissmann) decided to take off the gloves and use brass knuckle tactics on the uncooperative, unbreakable Manafort. Indeed, in the most underhanded way Mueller deceiving a federal judge with a Senate subpoena issued to Manafort (as I wrote about here) convinced him that he (Manafort) was possibly hiding incriminating evidence in his Virginia home that he might destroy. Then, as if Manafort was some kind of dangerous Capone-like mobster or El Chapo-like drug lord, the judge granted Mueller a no knock search warrant to raid his home. With guns drawn before dawn FBI agents busted into Manafort's house manhandled him and his wife and seized a trove of banking, tax and real estate records, and other material. But the evidence of crimes Mueller hoped to find didn't materialize.
Manafort was Mr. Clean. But to Mueller this lobbyist for bad ass third world dictators (Marcos, Mobutu, Sambivi, etc.) was a clever, sleazy, filthy rogue who knew how to conceal his crimes and sins, and was deserving of hell; and with intimidating the no-knock raid as prelude Mueller and Weissmann* were going to rake Manafort over the coals - even if it meant lying and overcharging him with crimes.
*It's important to note that Weissmann appears to have had a personal animus against Manafort before he joined Mueller (see).
MANAFORT'S FARA VIOLATION
Unfortunately for Manafort, however, there was one crime he did commit that nevertheless was known to the FBI, DOJ and every other federal agency investigating him; a crime that no one would seek to indict him on because it was too petty, unserious and very rarely prosecuted: a FARA violation. FARA, an acronym for Foreign Agents Registration Act, is a law passed in 1938 requiring agents representing foreign governments to disclose that relationship to the DOJ along with information about their activities and finances. Though in its 80 year history there perhaps have been hundreds of FARA violators illegally lobbying in Washington there's been only seven criminal prosecutions in the last 50 years and one conviction - the defendant in that case, an agent of Saddam Hussein's, paid a fine of $300,000, got probation and saw no jail time (see).
TRUMP'S SIN OF NIXING MUELLER
Indeed, Mueller had nothing on Manafort but a lousy, rarely enforced FARA violation that at worse if convicted would cost him a six figure fine - pocket change to this millionaire. But that wasn't enough for the corrupt, crooked, over aggressive Mueller. No way he'd let Manafort off so easy. Apart from the legal fortune he made lobbying for what turned out to be (no fault of his own) a corrupt, pro-Putin Ukrainian regime, and dealing legally with sleazy Ukrainian and Russian businessmen and oligarchs certainly more offensive to Mueller was Manafort briefly heading Donald Trump's successful presidential campaign; for Trump committed the unforgivable sin of rejecting him to replace his friend Jim Comey as FBI chief. Afterall, Mueller was Comey's predecessor running the Bureau for 12 years under Bush and Obama; and as he was well qualified for the job and to continue Comey's work any President who'd think differently and deny him what his credentials entitled him to must have seemed to be a moron to Mueller undeserving of respect and his job*.
*My guess is that Trump nixed Mueller because he saw in him another James Comey.
MUELLER AND WEISSMANN CREATING NEW, UNHEARD OF CRIMES
In short, Manafort could be key to getting revenge on Trump and bringing him down. So Mueller and Weissmann put their heads together and came up with creative ways to use Manafort's FARA violation to indict him for bigger crimes in the hope of flipping him against Trump. And what they came up with was as desperate and ridiculous as it was novel and new.
CRIMINALIZING LEGALLY EARNED FUNDS
Indeed, on the rarely prosecuted FARA violation they built a money laundering and tax fraud case (now expanded into bank fraud) where the millions in fees Manafort LEGALLY earned as an unregistered lobbyist were virtually CRIMINALIZED. Because Manafort wasn't a legally registered lobbyist the fortune he made was treated by Mueller as tainted, illegal and dirty - no better than mob or drug money. Furthermore, because that money was allegedly illegally gained using it to buy assets (real estate, boats, jewelry, gold, expensive art work and antiques, etc.), and moving it around between off shore banks (it was earned abroad), was, according to Mueller, a form of money laundering - washing the funds and making them clean. So Mueller charged Manafort with a phony, made up, fantastic money laundering and tax fraud scheme and convinced a grand jury of liberal DC idiots to indict him. Indeed, take away the FARA charge, the basis of the 12 count indictment and it collapses like a house of cards.
MANAFORT'S UNWARRANTED HOUSE ARREST
But charging Manafort with this crap wasn't enough for the vicious, out of control, witch hunting Mueller. To make things worse for his victim Mueller got the judge in the case to put him under house arrest when the evidence was overwhelming he wasn't a flight risk. Indeed, Manafort knew two months in advance he'd be indicted by the grand jury. In fact, in late September Manafort told friend Roger Stone that he was expecting he'd be charged with money laundering and tax crimes (see); but instead of fleeing abroad (Putin would have given him asylum just like he gave his former client Yanukovych) he stayed put in the States confident in his innocence and ultimately being vindicated. It's just outrageous what Mueller and Weissmann did to this man - and his friend Rick Gates who shared the same indictment charge for charge.
WILL MANAFORT BEAT MUELLER AND BE VINDICATED?
As you can see Mueller's indictment of Manafort and strong arm tactics haven't worked in shaking him, which is why he needs the testimony of Rick Gates (Manafort's close friend, lobbying partner and deputy in the Trump campaign). Unless Gates has something truly damning on Manafort, Mueller will have a hard time putting him in jail as his indictment (apart from the FARA charge) will likely be thrown out of court; or if Mueller wins a conviction the wealthyManafort, if necessary, will almost certainly take his case all the ways to the Supreme Court where it will likely be overturned on appeal. But if all else fails Manafort can count on Donald Trump to pardon him like Clinton did Marc Rich, or commute his sentence like Bush did for Scooter Libby.
WHY AREN'T TONY PODESTA AND VIN WEBER INDICTED LIKE MANAFORT?
When is Mueller's grand jury going to issue indictments for Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, and Vin Weber of Mercury LLC for their FARA violations and money laundering crimes like they did to Manafort and Gates? Didn't Manafort and Gates hire Podesta and Weber to lobby for the corrupt, pro-Putin government of Viktor Yanukovych (with Obama's and Hillary Clinton's blessing*)? Didn't they make $1 million and $500,000 respectively (or more) for their unregistered lobbying work? And wasn't this tainted, dirty, illegally earned money like the millions made by Manafort and Gates? And didn't they like Manafort and Gates buy assets and things with their bad money and keep it in overseas accounts? Isn't this money laundering a la Mueller?
*At the time Clinton and Obama (kissing Putin's ass) supported Yanukovych (see); and in appreciation Yanukovych's wealthy Ukrainian oligarch backers donated millions to the Clinton Foundation (see, h/t You Know Who.)
Clinton with Yanukovych in Kiev.
So why haven't Podesta's and Weber's homes been raided? Why haven't they been indicted and put under house arrest? Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos were indicted for simply lying to the FBI about legal meetings with Russians; and Rick Gates' attorney Alex Zwaan for hiding emails; aren't these on the surface more serious than the crimes committed by Podesta and Weber? ABSOLUTELY! It's now more 100 days since Manafort and Gates were charged with money laundering, tax and FARA crimes - with Podesta's and Weber's lobbying firms alluded to in their indictment - so why isn't Mueller moving on these felons? Why, apparently, are they getting off scot-free?
Is Mueller letting Podesta and Weber off the hook because they're not guilty of the sin of being connected to the Trump campaign? Because Podesta is a pro-Clinton Democrat who opposed Trump's election? And Vin Weber is a Never Trump Republican who vowed to quit the GOP if Trump became president? This looks to me like prosecutorial bias and selective justice; it looks like a profoundly corrupt partisan witch hunt limited to Trump World. I thought Mueller was a man of upstanding integrity and a patriotic marine? I thought he was above such things?
Robert Mueller, who's investigation is coming under a cloud due to corruption in the Flynn case, added 20 new counts to the original shaky 12 count indictment against Manafort and Gates. These new financial crimes seem stronger than the original 12. But are they strong enough to get a conviction and put these men behind bars?
My guess is that Mueller had these new charges in his pocket all the time and was hoping he wouldn't need them to flip both men against Trump which is his aim. But that didn't happen. Moreover, my guess is that Mueller warned both men in advance that this new round of charges was coming; and all that it did was to break Gates who like Flynn is going broke, but not the very wealthy Manafort who seems determined to go the length with Mueller and fight him to the very end. Gates has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testimony against his friend. Manafort stoically unperturbed declared his innocence and regreted Gates' weakening.
But now that Mueller has greatly strengthened his case against Manafort with a slew of new felonies why does he need the testimony of Gates? Could it be that they're not as strong as they seem? And that many of them are manufactured, made up BS like the FARA based money laundering charge, and Flynn's false statement to the FBI? Could it be that Manafort is confident that he can beat them either in court or on appeal? Or does he think that his civil suit challenging Mueller's broad authority and alleging that the Justice Department violated the law in appointing him will shut him down (see)? Or does he believe that the President has his back and will pardon him if convicted, or commute his sentence? If Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio who did less for his campaign then perhaps that explains Manafort's unshakable confidence.