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(OCT 31, 2017)—Halloween: a holiday that, year after year, inspires fright in both young and old. This year in particular, Washington is among the many places left pallid from the chilled October air after the federal indictment of Washington regulars Paul Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates. Just one day ago, DC courts demanded that these two turn themselves in under the pretense of committing acts of conspiracy, in addition to 11 other counts including money laundering and false statements under oath. This is the culmination of months of work from FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into Russian collusion with United States elections processes and politically-affiliated lobbying and managerial groups. U.S. intelligence agencies officially concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.
Before I present anything else, I’ll simply report the official court documents as they come, direct charges from the courts of the District of Columbia as to the indictment:
“Defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., (MANAFORT) and RICHARD W. GATES III (GATES) served for years as political consultants and lobbyists. Between at least 2006 and 2015, MANAFORT and GATES acted as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian political party whose leader Victor Yanukovych was President from 2010 to 2014), Yanukovych, and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions that formed in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Russian). MANAFORT and GATES generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. IN order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.
In furtherance of the scheme, MANAFORT and GATES funneled millions of dollars in payments to foreign nominee companies and bank accounts, opened by them and their accomplices in nominee names and in various foreign countries, including Cyprus, Saint Vincent, & the Grenadines (Grenadines), and the Seychelles. MANAFORT and GATES hid the existence of the foreign companies and bank accounts, falsely and repeatedly reporting to their tax preparers and to the United States that they had no foreign bank accounts.”
And so, we are left from the very start with an intriguing tale of foreign powers, political successors, and smuggled treasures. Only on holidays such as these would we be left with such a chilling realization: big money passes through many hands in Washington, and influence is successfully peddled to both big and small fish in this pond. The official court documentation, assigned to Judge Deborah Amy B. Jackson, goes on to tell a woeful tale of many millions of dollars used to purchase not only property here in the United States, but also furnishings for these properties and other luxurious expenses. They probably planned on a wonderfully extravagant Halloween celebration, if it weren’t for us meddling kids.
Let’s begin to dissect the charges at hand, one entity at a time: Paul Manafort was the former chairman for Donald Trump’s campaign up until 2015. Beginning in 2008, he first began to take payments from accounts originating overseas into holding firms associated with a home improvement company in New York, referred to as “Vendor A.” These amounts are believed to originate from pro-Russian firms operating in Ukraine, given to Manafort as a reward for spreading misinformation concerning the 2016 elections and the events which lead up to it in addition to his actions as an unregistered lobbyist in various circles in Washington. Furthermore, he continued to maintain this role as a lobbyist for Ukrainian and pro-Russian interests, doing so of his own accord and while purposely avoiding the proper documentation required by federal law.
Now, looking to Richard Gates: between the years of 2008 up to this fiscal year, he acted as a business partner to Manafort. He was primarily involved in the domestic campaign of misinformation and collusion here in the United States, while also acting as a financial cosigner and conspiracist with respect to the laundering of funds. While Manafort would meet with pro-Russian firms, he would then communicate their ideals to Gates, who was directly employing two firms (referred to as Company A and Company B) to lobby for both Blocs as well as Yanukovych while he was president of Ukraine.
A few facets of this situation are of vital importance: the hard evidence of unregistered foreign lobbying, as well as the laundering of funds from overseas accounts. For the sake of clarity, we’ll handle these issues one at a time beginning with the evidence of an unregistered foreign interference in US elections. The Brennan Center for Justice reported this year that our weakest points have yet to be properly addressed, and said that we should note the wisdom of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Arthur Vandenberg, who said we must end partisan arguments “at the water’s edge.” Ultimately, this is the lesson to be learned when dealing with a foreign interest’s interference in our political processes; fighting between the aisles is ameliorative to national security, and unfortunately it’s common for debates on voting procedures to work in partisan interests, hoping to stir more votes to one party or the other.
In order to ensure that our nation is secure from foreign interests, we must first look past our differences in social policies and work to make democracy more effective and fair, and most importantly ours. When the founding fathers presented us with inalienable rights, one of those was the right to our own lives. By choosing to consistently punish those who act as unregistered foreign agents, we help to ensure domestic safety and our rights as a citizen of the United States to sovereignty over our own lives, free from undue interference. Therefore, it is important that we use this evidence of collusion in order to fully prosecute all those who work against American interests and the fair democratic process, be they Democrat or Republican.
Next, let’s look to how the evidence of money laundering in this indictment is also of note. This problem may not be a new one, but securing this conviction is key to ensuring the safety not of our democracy but rather the safety of our economy. I recall conversations between peers that I would hear during the 2016 election, when people scoffed at the idea that Donald Trump referred to a one million dollar loan as small. What would these same people say if they realized that Paul Manafort profited more than 70 million dollars over less than a decade? Much more than small, this morbidly excessive amount was put into the hands of criminals and foreign agents, using social media and personal influence to mislead the American people and those that lead them. Personally, I do not feel any sorrow for those who made money profiting from the ignorance and manipulation of my political peers. By following through, we can make steps towards taking capital and political power away from those seeking to manipulate in their own selfish interests. By making sure we investigate the issue of campaign finance fully, we can also make efforts to make sure that situations like these aren’t possible in the future.
Having seen firsthand just how volatile the social spheres were during these elections, I hoped that these was not the true emotions of the American people and I’m glad to see that the social unrest was not necessarily of our own accord. It is important to be aware of mob mentality and it’s just as important to know when to speak out against it. This Halloween, let’s all make an effort to uproot our partisan habits and realize that the only way to be truly secure is to work together. Given that this information was very recently released to the public, I will do my best to cover escalations in this case as they happen. Updates will be found here at this web address, and will be labeled as such.
Update (Oct. 21st, 2018):
Richard Gates plead guilty to the aforementioned crimes in his courtroom testimony, also admitting to several items that weren't originally referenced in his indictment. Paul Manafort, reeling from the testimonial bombs dropped by Gates, also plead guilty to the crimes referenced in the indictment. Both men, after their initial courtroom appearances in May of last year, also face further further judicial action in September of 2018. Justice is being dispensed, albeit at the usual bureaucratic pace.
(Archived courtroom transcripts for their trial from May of this year can be found here. )