Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictment against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates is “much ado about nothing,” according to a former federal prosecutor.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review Online that Mueller’s indictments are about getting Manafort and Gates to cooperate, and, for now, have nothing to do with allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“From President Trump’s perspective, the indictment is a boon from which he can claim that the special counsel has no actionable collusion case,” McCarthy wrote.
“It appears to reaffirm former FBI director James Comey’s multiple assurances that Trump is not a suspect,” he wrote. “And, to the extent it looks like an attempt to play prosecutorial hardball with Manafort, the president can continue to portray himself as the victim of a witch hunt.”
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to 12 counts, including “conspiracy against the United States.” Manafort served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager for a few months, but resigned once reports surfaced he may have illegally received money from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
Federal authorities on Monday unsealed indictments against Manafort and Gates, a former Trump campaign official and associate of Manafort.
WATCH: INDICTMENT OF MANAFORT
Authorities also indicted George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to federal agents about the timing of his meetings with people connected to the Russian government.
McCarthy said “Mueller’s case, at least in part, seems shaky and overcharged” based on what’s been unsealed.
“Obviously, one purpose of the conspiracy count (Count One) is to enable prosecutors, under the guise of establishing the full scope of the scheme, to prove law violations that would otherwise be time-barred,” McCarthy wrote.
“It may well be that Manafort and Gates made false statements when they belatedly registered as foreign agents, but it appears that Mueller’s office has turned one offense into two, an abusive prosecutorial tactic that flouts congressional intent,” McCarthy wrote.
“Finally, the money-laundering conspiracy allegation (Count Two) seems far from slam-dunk,” McCarthy wrote. “For someone to be guilty of laundering, the money involved has to be the proceeds of criminal activity before the accused starts concealing it by (a) moving it through accounts or changing its form by buying assets, etc., or (b) dodging a reporting requirement under federal law.”
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