Robert Mueller Just Tightened The Noose On Paul Manafort
The special prosecutor Robert Mueller is close to filing criminal charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the Wall Street Journal revealed Tuesday.
According to the report, Manafort —who is reportedly buried in legal fees— is one of the primary targets of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and may also become the first to face criminal charges.
Mueller’s team is working with the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office on a new money-laundering case against Manafort, tied to the F.B.I. investigation into last year’s presidential election.
Sources familiar with the matter told the Journal that the collaboration began after Mueller tapped Andrew Goldstein, who heads the office’s public corruption unit, to join his high-powered team. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni, who previously served on the money-laundering and asset-forfeiture unit, is also working on the probe, according to sources that spoke with the outlet.
Manafort’s growing list of legal entanglements is an unmistakable sign that Mueller is zeroing in on the political operative, who has long-standing ties to Russian interests. Multiple Congressional committees investigating Kremlin election meddling have requested his testimony, and Mueller—whose focus on Manafort reportedly spans an 11-year period—recently instructed federal prosecutors to raid his home in July.
The report also notes that subpoenas have been issued to a number of Manafort’s associates seeking financial information, including his former son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Manafort is likely to lose $4 million he sunk into Los Angeles real-estate investments following a bankruptcy hearing. And in August, Mueller teamed up with the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Mueller’s collaborations with Schneiderman and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office are particularly noteworthy, as any charges born out of the investigations would be exempt from presidential pardons, which only apply to federal crimes, raising the possibility that they could be used as leverage against Manafort and, by extension, the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, Trump’s unusual level of interest in candidates for open U.S. attorney positions in Manhattan and Brooklyn has raised eyebrows and legal experts are calling into question his motives.
Last week, Politico reported that Trump personally interviewed two front-runners for the job, both of whom have ties to Trump. Geoffrey Berman, a top pick for the Manhattan post, is a partner at the law firm where Trump ally Rudy Giuliani works, and Ed McNally, a front-runner to head the Brooklyn office, is a partner at the firm of Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer.
Once confirmed, both U.S. attorneys will have jurisdiction over cases involving Trump associates. The head of the Eastern District of New York office, which is based in Brooklyn, would oversee the ongoing probe into Kushner Companies. And the attorney appointed to lead the Southern District of New York would have jurisdiction over the Manafort money-laundering probe.
While the White House denied that such interviews were unusual, legal experts are sounding the alarm about a potential obstruction of justice and cover-up in the works.
The White House and Manafort did not respond to a request for comment on the Journal’s report.