Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been hard at work for the last 18 months investigating charges that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to impact the 2016 election results.
While indictments were handed out to about 20 Russian citizens, American Paul Manafort is facing trial after he served as chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign. It was possible that Manafort may be the smoking gun that anti-Trump people have been seeking in this whole collusion mess.
But why is Manafort and collusion not being mentioned in the same breath during his trial?
Maybe the smoke wasn’t coming from Manafort at all.
Manafort, who has a known history of working with people affiliated with the Russian mob, has been on trial in New York on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion – though none of it seems to tie directly to the investigation into Russia collusion with the Trump campaign.
How do we know this? Mueller is not prosecuting this case himself, as the case fell outside of his jurisdiction. He forwarded the case the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case.
Trump and collusion have not been part of the trial involving Manafort. The main issues in the trial are the genesis of millions of dollars in Manfort’s foreign accounts based on some of his political consulting and lobbying work over the years. Prosecutors were especially interested in his work from 2010 to 2015 when he had racked up about $65 million in foreign bank accounts, and they allege that he lied on applications in order to secure about $20 million in loans from banks to finance some of his efforts, especially in Ukraine, which eventually ended in 2015 right around the time that Manafort joined Trump’s fledgling presidential campaign.
The latest word from the trial came Friday, August 17, when Manfort judge T.S. Ellis revealed that he had been threatened during the trial, find the safety of those involved said he would not release the names of the jurors. Ellis has said he will have U.S. marshal protection with him everywhere for the duration of the trial if not beyond – depending on the results of the jury deliberations on the 18 counts.
Meanwhile, with this case getting headlines solely because of Manfort’s prominent relationship with Trump and his previous connections to Russia, the actual collusion investigation has reportedly not led Mueller any closer to linking Trump with the Russians, and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has asked Mueller to wrap up his case by the end of August of “we will come down on him like a ton of bricks.”
Sounds a little like a mob threat, eh?