Legal expert, former federal prosecutor and candidate for Illinois Attorney General Renato Mariotti shared his preliminary thoughts on the Manafort/Gates indictments in the Trump Russia probe Monday morning.
THREAD: My very preliminary / initial thoughts on the indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) October 30, 2017
Here is his whole Twitter thread:
1/ The indictment of Manafort and Gates was just unsealed. You can view it here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1007271/download
2/ An indictment is a formal charge that has been approved on by a grand jury, which are a group ordinary citizens who hear evidence..
3/ In the United States, you have a constitutional right to be charged by indictment if you are being charged with a felony.
4/ The indictment charges Paul Manafort and Richard Gates with multiple felonies. A felony is a crime punishable by over a year in prison.
5/ The indictment charges the men with a number of different crimes. I’m going to walk through them in this thread.
6/ Indictments list the allegations that the government is making and the specific laws that have been violated.
7/ This indictment is something called a “speaking indictment” — instead of just saying the charges, it lists specific factual allegations.
8/ Certain crimes (like conspiracy) require the government to explain exactly what the defendants did and what the conspiracy was about.
9/ Prosecutors gain a couple of advantages from charging crimes like conspiracy. First, they get to give the jury a road map of the case.
10/ The jury gets to bring the indictment back into the jury room when they deliberate after a trial.
11/ Conspiracy charges also let prosecutors bring in a broader range of activity into a single charge.
12/ Typically crimes involve a specific action or occur at a specific time. A conspiracy is an agreement to break the law and it is ongoing.
13/ So the first charge in this indictment is a conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 371. That is a general federal conspiracy statute.
14/ If two people agree to commit a federal law and take a concrete step towards doing so (called an overt act), they’ve violated 371.
15/ Here, Manafort and Gates are charged with agreeing to defeat the lawful functions of the United States.
16/ This is a common charge in tax cases–I charged this statute myself in a tax case. It means they worked together to undermine the IRS.
17/ For instance, when you go out of your way to hide money and affirmatively make it hard for the IRS to enforce the law against you.
18/ You can read more about the basis of the conspiracy charge by reading the parts of the indictment references in paragraphs 38 and 39.
19/ The second crime is a conspiracy (agreement) to launder money. That’s when you move money in order to promote *another* crime.
20/ I’ve told you before that money laundering is a challenge to prove because you need to show that other crime happened. Mueller did that.
21/ The other crime (it’s called “specified unlawful activity”) is a failure to register as a foreign agent. More on that later.
22/ The next crime is only against Manafort for failure to file a statement with the Treasury Department disclosing foreign bank accounts.
23/ As we’ve discussed often, prosecutors like narrow charges like this because they’re easy to prove. Either you disclosed or not, period.
24/ The next crime charged is against only Gates for essentially the same thing. Failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
25/ The next count is for failing to register as a foreign agent. The law requires that anyone working in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign
26/ government must register with the Attorney General. This is another narrow crime that can be very straightforward to prove.
27/ (Registration is important so our government can monitor what foreign governments are doing within the United States.)
28/ The next crime (Count 11, p. 27) is one of the most important and revealing. This charges false and misleading registration statements.
29/ I don’t have time to list the statements here, but Mueller is affirmatively alleging that he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that
30/ each one of those statements is false, which says something about the work that Manafort and Gates were doing and allegedly lied about.
31/ The next crime is just a different way of charging the same false statements, which are a violation of both statutes.
32/ Prosecutors sometimes charge the same crime multiple ways because what they have to prove under each statute is slightly different.
33/ The last part of the indictment is something called the “Forfeiture Allegation.” If property is acquired from unlawful activity, or
34/ if it is used in unlawful activity, it can be “forfeited” (taken) by the federal government. That forfeiture has to be alleged too.
35/ Here the government lists various property that they will try to forfeit as well as “substitute property” that they can take if the
36/ listed property is no longer available because it was sold or transferred.
37/ I have many, many more thoughts on this indictment but this is a starting point. I will have more threads today and will be on TV a lot.
38/ I read your comments and questions, even if I can’t respond to all of them, and I’ll try to answer them later today. /end
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.