On Monday morning, millions of Americans woke to the revelation that former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had been called in to surrender to authorities.
Following accusations stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, liberal talking heads began their Is this the end of Trump? for the hundredth time this year.
Just like in the aftermath of former-FBI Director James Comey’s testimony in July, many will soon be disappointed by Manafort’s indictment. As Bloomberg reports:
“The wire transfers and lobbying that form the basis for the indictment date back to 2008, long before there was a Trump campaign for president… the transfers have no direct link to campaign collusion. They can at most show that the pair had connections to suspicious pro-Russian Ukrainians who could then be connected to Vladimir Putin’s administration. And we already knew of these ties.”
The charges stem not from his monthlong tenure as Trump campaign manager and collusion with Russia, but during his time as a pro-Ukrainian lobbyist. Manafort made millions of dollars from his lobbying work, before laundering the profits and lying about it. Two lobbying firms identified in the grand jury indictment are now being reported as Mercury LLC and Podesta Group. They were solicited by Manafort to lobby on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government.
The Podesta Group is a Democratic lobbying firm headed by Tony Podesta, brother of former Hillary campaign manager John Podesta. It emerged that Mueller had begun investigating Tony Podesta and his firm last week, and Tony stepped down from his role at the Podesta Group (due to his connection with Manafort) the same day Manafort was indicted. The firm also represents the interests of Sberbank of Russia, Russia’s largest financial institution.
Manafort was elevated to chairman of Trump's campaign in June 2016. A partial history of his lobbying efforts broke a month later, and he resigned a few days after that. The story revolving around his indictment is, therefore, nothing groundbreaking. Apart from clickbait headlines, it won’t add much credence to the Russia/Trump collusion accusations that the investigation was supposed to expose.
What has become apparent is that Manafort will be just the first head to roll as part of Mueller’s investigation. Attention will focus on the Podesta Group now, due to their connection to Manafort. It will have implications for the type of pay-to-play type of politics that lobbying enables. Trump will double down on his efforts to connect the Clinton Foundation to corruption involving Russia, and the collusion narrative will continue to expand into a bipartisan affair.🔷