This past Monday, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted on a dozen charges, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. The news that indictments were coming had been leaked to CNN the Friday before, and on Monday, the nation woke up to the stunning image of the president’s former campaign manager turning himself into the FBI.
Besides Manafort, two other former Trump aides were revealed last Monday as also facing criminal charges. Trump aide Rick Gates was indicted alongside Manafort, with both men presently on house arrest, while former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was revealed to have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
- Read More: Articles of Impeachment Against Trump Will Be Filed By Multiple House Members By Thanksgiving.
Papadopoulos lied about the timing of a contact of his with a Russian professor promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The Trump team has claimed that Papadopoulos had an insignificant role within the campaign, dismissing him as a “volunteer,” but he is in a photograph of a meeting including the president, and Trump himself praised Papadopoulos during the campaign
It’s less easy for the Trump team to dismiss Manafort’s role, although they’ve tried to do so. Manafort led the campaign as a whole for three months — there’s no getting around the fact that he was important in the functioning of the Trump team.
Manafort, formally charged with money laundering this past Monday, as mentioned, used offshore shell companies and bank accounts to move millions of dollars around the globe. Manafort can’t get out of his connection to the Trump campaign — and he can’t get out of his connection to those associated with the web of shady financial accounts that he used to move money around.
As the Daily Beast lays out in a new report, Manafort, through one of the offshore companies he used to launder money, was just a step away from a Russian mobster who has been called “the most dangerous mobster in the world.”
That’s right; the man who led Donald Trump’s campaign for months, before having to step down after revelations of shady overseas political consulting work, has connections to Russian mobsters.
The Russian mobster in question is Semion Mogilevich, who is accused of, at the very least, “weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution.” Mogilevich is “currently believed to be safe in Moscow.” Manafort is connected to Mogilevich through Ukrainian parliamentarian Ivan Fursin, who contributed millions of dollars to the Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, which is one of the companies Manafort used to launder money.
Non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations Taras Kuzio explained to the Daily Beast that Fursin was “a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization.”
As retired criminal investigator for the IRS Martin Sheil added:
‘[Manafort’s] indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort.’
Manafort used Lucicle to avoid government scrutiny of money he and his longtime partner Rick Gates used for a variety of expenses here in the U.S. Between 2012 and 2013, Manafort transferred more than $1.3 million to a home improvement company from Lucicle, with more than $200,000 going to a New York men’s clothing store over the same period. There were multiple other massive payments as well.
Manafort, through a not guilty plea and through his lawyer, Kevin Downing, has unsurprisingly denied the charges against him.
The alleged money laundering isn’t even the only connection of Manafort to Fursin and organized crime — Fursin is also a member of the political party which paid at least $17 million to Manafort over a number of years for political consulting work.
Trump, for his part, has never seemed to care much about the seriousness of the Russians’ meddling in our elections through avenues like their relationship with Manafort.
Infamously, back when the campaign was still underway, Trump called on Russia to continue their meddling, asking them to “find” emails that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server, for which she dealt with substantial scrutiny.
More recently, on Monday, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s charges against Manafort and Gates were revealed, Trump took to Twitter to assert that the Democrats are the real culprits in the Russia scandal.
He wrote, speaking of Manafort’s alleged crimes:
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
Twitter unsurprisingly had a lot to say about that.