The Open Secrets Of The Russia narrative
The indictment Monday of Paul Manafort is, among other things, a spectacular exercise in prosecutorial discretion, a marker that Donald Trump nearly inexplicably hired a man trailed by a sad, but widely known history and then fired him — less over what he’d done as campaign chairman than what he’d done in the final decade of his career.
Our Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier reported Sunday — in a narrative that is a blueprint for nowadays’s indictments — that the FBI was on Manafort’s case as early as 2012, an investigation that “lay dormant” for a long time:
Manafort’s suspicious financial transactions were first flagged by Treasury officials as far back as 2012 and forwarded to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the Department of Justice for further investigation in 2013 and 2014, a former Treasury official who worked on the matter told BuzzFeed News. The extent of Manafort’s suspicious transactions was so huge, said this former official, that law enforcement agents drafted a series of “intelligence reports” approximately Manafort’s financial dealings. Two law enforcement officials who worked on the case say that they found red flags in his banking records going back as far as 2004, and that the transactions in question totaled many millions of dollars.
But the FBI wasn’t alone in looking at Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, also indicted on Monday, long before they ever joined the Trump campaign. Way back in 2013, BuzzFeed News’ Rosie Gray reported in detail of the covert propaganda campaign being hasten by the European Centre for contemporary Ukraine, the front group tied to Manafort and Gates’s operation. Their long-overdue Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) paperwork was — even whether filled out truthfully, which it allegedly was not — an acknowledgment they’d failed to reveal what work they were legally required to reveal.
Other reporters were coarse over the narrative, as well. Politico’s Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman documented Manafort’s exceptional career in 2014. That year, Roger Stone, another member of Trump’s feuding inner circle, blasted out an email with the question “Where is Paul Manafort?” and answers including, “Was seen chauffeuring Yanukovych around Moscow,” and “Was seen loading gold bullion on an Army Transport plane from a remote airstrip external Kiev and taking off seconds before a mob arrived at the site.”
When Manafort joined the campaign in 2016, Russia watchers were immediately alarmed: “With Donald Trump on the brink of receiving classified security briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency, US foreign policy figures of both parties are raising concerns approximately a close Trump aide’s ties to allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” we reported at the time. Slate published a 5,000-word piece detailing Manafort’s work abroad.
The drumbeat continued: The original York Times final year reported that Manafort’s name appeared in a secret ledger of questionable Ukrainian payouts. The AP early this year tied him more closely to Russia. The Atlantic reported that emails account for Manafort writing a Ukrainian contact in April, asking him to originate certain that a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin was aware of the work he was doing on the Trump campaign.
So what does this coarse mean? It doesn’t mean Manafort colluded with Russians on Trump’s campaign; it does mean that Trump deliberately brought aboard a boatload of Russian baggage. It doesn’t say much approximately Jared Kushner or Steve Bannon; but it does propose that whether Gates or Manafort know more, they’re likely to cough it up, faced with the prospect of growing veteran in federal prison.
The moves against Manafort and Gates stand in contrast to the other indictment unsealed nowadays. George Papadopoulos was arrested in July; according to the filings on Monday, he lied to the FBI approximately the timing of meetings he took just weeks and months into his stint as a foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Trump. He has since been cooperating with Mueller, detailing contacts with sources he thought were close to the Russian foreign ministry and alleged attempts by Russian officials to reach the Trump campaign.
There’s a lot that we don’t know approximately the Russia narrative, but there’s also a lot that we’ve always known, and the scramble for original information can obscure the obvious. We know that Russian state media openly attacked Clinton and boosted Trump, the overt arm of a media campaign that copious evidence suggests was also covert. We know that Trump hired men deeply connected to Russia’s allies to hasten his campaign; we don’t know much of what they did behind the scenes, whether anything.
We still don’t know everything approximately what took plot in a closed-door assembly final summer between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, or whether Trump allies ever were successful in their hunt for Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.
But we achieve know what the candidate said on stage in Florida final July: “Russia, whether you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are lost.”
Manafort’s alleged crimes maintain been in plain sight for years. So much of this narrative is.