Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is zeroing in on one target.
He’s building a case that could lead to a criminal conviction.
And it proved something shocking about Trump and collusion.
Mueller is focusing his efforts on the financial dealings of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Manafort made tens of millions of dollars as a consultant working on behalf of foreign clients including a pro-Russia party in Ukraine.
“Paul Manafort’s place in the crosshairs of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Kremlin’s attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election seems to be growing more uncomfortable.
Two sources familiar with the inquiry tell McClatchy that investigators are working to confirm information indicating that Manafort and the consulting firms he led earned between $80 million and $100 million over a decade from pro-Moscow Ukrainian and Russian clients.
Mueller’s expanded focus on Manafort’s complicated financial picture is zeroing in on whether he may have evaded taxes or engaged in any money laundering schemes, the sources say, and the hunt for his financial records through a labyrinth of offshore bank and business accounts has become an important prong of the investigation.
Overall, the probe centers on whether anyone on Donald Trump’s campaign, or other Trump associates, assisted Moscow’s election meddling. Russia’s cyber mischief last year was designed to help the real estate mogul win in November.
But Mueller’s team may also pursue “any matters” that are found in the course of the probe.
Manafort, who chaired the Trump campaign for three months in mid-2016 and earlier spent two months coordinating the search for pro-Trump delegates, is a prime target as investigators attempt to win the cooperation of key members of the campaign’s inner circle, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiry is confidential.”
McClatchy also reports this could be an effort to squeeze Manafort into deal with Mueller by providing information on collusion in exchange for a lesser sentence:
“Whether Manafort can be squeezed depends in part on whether he failed to report foreign income and overseas bank accounts annually to the Internal Revenue Service as required by law. The volume of money said to be involved and the time elapsed could put him at significant risk.
“If Manafort is shown to have violated the tax laws and the disclosure laws in connection with his foreign income, then he may be facing substantial jail time and large fines,” said Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity. If the violations are willful, the penalties go up.
That’s the sort of pressure that could cause Manafort to cut a deal with Mueller under which he might receive leniency in return for divulging what contact he and other Trump aides had with Russian officials and operatives during 2016.”
While that may be true, it also shows that the investigation into collusion has come up empty.
For over a year, the FBI has been investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
They have even used FISA warrants against Trump officials.
And they still have turned up nothing.
Mueller’s decision to focus on Manafort shows there is nothing there on collusion.
But it also serves another purpose.
Mueller’s mission is to turn up dirt – any kind of dirt – on Trump or his associates.
The swamp will then use whatever Mueller finds as the basis for impeaching Trump.
So Mueller may not even be trying to squeeze Manafort for information on collusion.
He may be trying to build the case for Trump’s impeachment.
We will keep you updated on any new developments in this case.