Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and business partner Rick Gates, were indicted yesterday on 12 counts related to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government. The most serious charges allege money laundering, tax evasion, and failure to register as an agent of a foreign government. They are felony charges which carry lengthy prison time and gargantuan fines.
Trump in a sense, however, can breathe a sigh of relief. The charges against Manafort in no way, shape, or form, relate to the 2016 campaign, or any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In another sense, however, they reveal incredibly poor judgment on the part of his campaign.
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Even if we can believe that Trump was unaware of the salacious details of Manafort’s ties to the Ukrainian government, it was common knowledge in Washington DC that Manafort had a less than pristine reputation. It seems nearly unimaginable that the Trump campaign, which hired Manafort as it was wrapping up sufficient delegates to clinch the GOP nomination, could have had such a lax vetting process in place.
What seems even more unimaginable is that Manafort, who had spent the past 10 years seeking to hide his lucrative Ukrainian income from the US government, would sign up for such a high profile position.
Either Manafort is an extremely reckless and careless individual, who brazenly thought that he could get away with the numerous crimes with which he has been charged, or he has some blockbuster, magical defense prepared that is going to knock the socks off the prosecution.
While the charge of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government is unlikely to outrage the American public, it seems abundantly obvious that one can not earn an estimated $75 million in overseas income, and then fail to pay taxes on those funds.
Manafort, apparently, was under the impression that by transferring said funds to offshore accounts in Cyprus, and then wiring the money to US bank accounts and vendors, that he could evade the watchful eye of the IRS. It appears to have been a seriously poor calculation on his part.