The Robert Mueller special investigation has been in the news often lately, including this week when they filed an additional 12 indictments against foreign individuals who are never likely to show up in the United States to face the charges against them. However, more interesting is the lengths the special investigation is going to concerning Paul Manafort.
It seems that the Mueller special investigation team has requested immunity for up to five individuals who are on the list of witnesses they asked to show up and testify against Manafort, the former campaign manager for Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign. This is a strange step to take, considering that the crimes he’s accused of aren’t even within the purview of the investigation in the first place.
The request for immunity was made in a court filing that the Mueller team made on Tuesday afternoon.
Sadly for those interested in the case and the intriguing twists and turns it has taken, the special investigators also asked that the names of the witnesses, as many as five such individuals, remain sealed.
The filing claims that the witnesses in question have not been publicly identified as of yet, and that the Mueller team is hoping to protect them against “undue harassment.”
The filing also states that the five individuals have not been charged in relation to the matter, and that they have not yet been identified with the case in any sort of public way.
The motion states that revealing them would be likely to expose them to said “undue harassment,” though the Mueller team declined to mention who they think, or claim, would be harassing these five individuals.
Paul Manafort was charged by the special investigation with money laundering, failing to register as a lobbying agent of a foreign nation, and a handful of other charges. None of these charges are related to claims that Donald Trump, or the Trump campaign, ‘colluded’ with the Russian government to get elected.
In fact, the charges Manafort is facing stem from crimes he committed years before the campaign, such as failing to report income from working as a lobbyist or election consultant for a politician in Ukraine, or trying to hide that money from the Internal Revenue Service to avoid paying taxes on it.
Perhaps most interesting of all, after Manafort was charged for failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign power (in this case, a politician in Ukraine), a fairly surprising number of law firms and lawyers have registered as lobbyists for other foreign organizations, or have updated existing registrations.
The number of individuals who came forward to register are numbers that allegedly haven’t been seen in two decades.
Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty on all charges. Originally, he was released on conditional bail while he awaited trial, but his bail was later revoked after he, and/or a ‘representative,’ allegedly contacted individuals on the witness list.
According to the filing that revoked his bail, they were attempting to tamper with the witnesses.
He is currently awaiting two separate trials. The first trial, which will be held in Virginia, is scheduled for July 24, just a week away, while the second, which will be held in Washington D.C., will occur in September.
For many, it has been strange to see the aggressive way that the Mueller investigative team and its prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, have targeted Manafort.
To begin with, they’re prosecuting him on charges that have literally nothing to do with the Trump campaign. The charges come from work he did years prior, and were long believed to not even be things that the special investigators could prosecute.
However, a number of members of the team applied for a specialized prosecutor status, that allowed them to try cases that were not normally considered ‘theirs,’ and Rod Rosenstein allegedly provided an expanded ‘scope memo’ months prior.
Some legal minds in the United States pointed out that this is not the way to run an investigation, however.
Alan Dershowitz, a leftist and possibly one of the brightest constitutional scholars the democrats have, said that he finds the way the prosecution of Manafort has proceeded to be questionable. He also suggested that the Mueller investigation was simply hoping to essentially compel people to provide information against Manafort (and Trump, eventually) via a ‘carrot and stick’ method.
It will be interesting to see how the first case, which starts next week on Tuesday, goes. However, there exists a very real threat that Donald J. Trump’s former campaign manager may see time in a federal penitentiary.