Mueller’s Indictment of Manafort: Desperate Hail Mary, or Trap for Trump?

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Muellers Indictment

This post was originally published on Investor's Business Daily.

Fast-moving rumors over the weekend — actually, illegal leaks to CNN from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office — were confirmed Monday after Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was indicted on 12 charges stemming from his ties to Russia. A disaster for Trump? Not yet. In fact, the indictment carefully avoids mention of either Trump or his campaign.

Mueller’s charges involve Manafort’s and junior business partner Rick Gates’ work on behalf of Russian-linked officials going all the way back to 2006. That’s when, as the Washington Post has reported, Manafort was pulling in a cool $10 million a year as an advisor to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire associate of Vladimir Putin. Manafort later served as a political advisor to pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych, who in 2010 became the president of Ukraine.

Manafort’s ties to Russia are long and deep, no doubt. But they have nothing to do with Donald Trump, or his campaign.

Trump employed Manafort for all of four months in 2016, before firing him after it was revealed that Manafort had received more than $12 million in cash payments from a Ukrainian political party from 2007 to 2012. It’s those four months that Mueller was hired to investigate.

Not only did there appear to be no Trump link to any of Manafort’s Russian activities, but he fired Manafort as soon as he found out about his ties. Does that sound like “collusion”?

“From President Trump’s perspective, the indictment is a boon from which he can claim that the special counsel has no actionable collusion case,” wrote former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy in National Review. “It appears to reaffirm former FBI director James Comey’s multiple assurances that Trump is not a suspect. And, to the extent it looks like an attempt to play prosecutorial hardball with Manafort, the president can continue to portray himself as the victim of a witch hunt.”

Yet, Mueller’s decision to indict Manafort and Gates follows a time-honored prosecutorial strategy: Indict the little fish (Manafort and Gates), and after threatening them with hard time in prison and massive fines, get them to snitch on the big fish (Trump).

Based on that, should Trump be worried?

The answer is: Only if he did something wrong — and, as of right now, after nearly a year and a half of investigation, there’s zero evidence that he did. This may be nothing more than a prosecutorial Hail Mary, thrown in desperation that something damning might be revealed.

If Trump shouldn’t be worried, who should?

The obvious answer is Bill and Hillary Clinton. After all, in 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved of the takeover of nuclear materials company Uranium One by the Russian state-owned nuclear monopoly Rosatom. The deal gave Russia control of an estimated 20% of the U.S.’ domestic uranium resources.

What’s unusual about this, beyond the obvious national security questions, is that about the same time as the deal was being approved by Hillary, officials and investors with ties to Uranium One and Rosatom were giving an estimated $145 million to the Clinton Foundation “charity,” while another Vladimir Putin-linked group was paying Bill Clinton $500,000 to deliver a speech in Moscow.

Highly curious, to say the least.

Nor was it all. As we wrote last year, Hillary also developed a sudden strong support for the Skolkovo technology center, a mini-Silicon Valley clone outside of Moscow. She got the backing from U.S. high-tech industrialists, investors and tech giants for the project — among them, Google, Cisco and Intel — which was intended to help Russia develop its own already-considerable technology capabilities.

A case of altruism or nurturing our budding “post-reset” ties to Russia? Hardly. Of the 28 companies that took part, 17 were donors to the Clinton Foundation or paid for Bill Clinton speeches. Another case of Hillary and Bill making money from their official duties.

Of interest is that, during this time, roughly 2009 and 2010, the FBI had discovered that the Russian state nuclear company, Rosatom, had conducted a campaign of bribery, racketeering, extortion and money laundering in its effort to win influence and control over U.S. nuclear assets. The FBI chose not to disclose this, even as Hillary approved the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom.

The FBI director when all this happened: Robert Mueller.

Yet, Mueller, now reincarnated as special prosecutor, went after Trump’s former campaign manager, Manafort. Fair enough. If Manafort broke the law, he broke the law.

But how about the Clintons, who seem to have run their family charity as a shakedown operation for foreign billionaires?

Or John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief? He held a seat on the board of a small energy company that included several Russia officials. That company took in some $35 million from a Russian government investment fund tied to Putin. And Podesta somehow forgot to fully disclose his ties to the firm, a clear violation of the law.

Podesta also denied any knowledge of funding for Fusion GPS, the group whose opposition research “dossier” on Trump has served as the template for Mueller’s investigation. Fusion GPS has been in part funded by the Russians, and much of the information in its now discredited dossier was provided by top Russian officials. Now that it has been revealed that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the dossier, it may be time for Podesta to reveal what he knows once again — under oath.

Then there’s Tony Podesta, John’s brother, who also has deep ties to the Democrats, the Clintons and the Russians. In a bizarre twist, Manafort actually worked with Podesta on some Russian matters. Meanwhile, it’s notable that Tony Podesta suddenly announced Monday that he is resigning from the Podesta Group. Maybe he wants to spend more time with his family, but given the timing we doubt it.

The point is, there appears to be two laws in effect here: One for Trump and Republicans, the other for the Clintons and Democrats. Because of this, we first made our call for the Russian investigation to be disbanded last summer. Mueller’s investigation was an obvious political fishing expedition. That’s still true today.

This post was originally published on Investor's Business Daily.