scarybiscuits7 / Flickr Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were...
scarybiscuits7 / Flickr

Trump celebrity pardon talk continues even as he ignores the #TrumpRussia plea bargains. And maybe Trump’s right about “No Collusion” since it’s becoming actual Conspiracy.

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday declined to say whether he would consider pardoning any of his associates amid the ongoing Russia probe, declaring it was too early to consider such action and noting that so far no one has been convicted.

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An investigation by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. president election and possible collusion by Trump’s campaign has led to several indictments and multiple guilty pleas.

Renato Mariotti tells us about superseding indictments as the vise on obstruction of justice closes tighter in detail on Paul Manafort.

  • 1/ Today the grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Paul Manafort with additional crimes. Manafort was already charged in two separate indictments (one in D.C., one in Virginia) with multiple crimes.
  • 2/ This “superseding” indictment replaces the D.C. indictment and adds new charges against Manafort. Specifically it adds charges that Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to obstruct justice by working together to tamper with witnesses. Here is the indictment: justice.gov/file/1070326/d…
  • 3/ These are the same facts that Mueller already brought to the court’s attention when he moved to revoke Manafort’s bond. Now Mueller obtained an indictment adding those charges as separate crime. A reason he may have done that is to allow him to prove the obstruction at trial.
  • 4/ If Mueller didn’t add the obstruction as a separate charge, he still could have tried to use Manafort’s efforts to tamper with witnesses as evidence of his state of mind, but Manafort’s attorneys would have tried to exclude that evidence.
  • 5/ Now that evidence comes in at trial because the jury has to determine whether Manafort is guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice. That evidence would likely be extremely damaging to Manafort at trial--if he was innocent, why would he try to engage in witness tampering?
  • 6/ The judge can still revoke Manafort’s bond if Mueller pushes forward with his motion. As I explained here with fellow @just_security editor @alexgwhiting, I expect Manafort’s bond to be revoked:
  • 7/ One interesting point about the new indictment is that it does not set forth any allegations about what Manafort and Kilimnik did. Typically, when prosecutors charge a conspiracy, they set forth in detail in the indictment what it is.
  • 8/ But Manafort’s indictment was already very complicated–Mueller charged two other conspiracy counts in the same indictment. The conspiracy to obstruct justice is fairly narrow as a factual matter compared to the wide-ranging activity already charged.
  • 9/ So adding additional factual detail about the witness tampering might have made it harder for the jury to make sense of the complicated indictment.
  • 10/ From Manafort’s perspective, this puts him in an even worse position, but his position was already extremely difficult. He faces many serious charges, and if he does not believe he will receive a pardon, he should plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller.
  • 11/ The indictment is more significant from a broader perspective. It is Mueller’s first indictment charging an American and a Russian for working together to commit a crime. He charged the former chair of Trump’s campaign and a suspected Russian intel operative with conspiracy.

  • 12/ “Collusion” is not a legal term. Conspiracy is. But if Trump’s campaign chair conspiring with a suspected Russian operative isn’t “collusion,” what is? This should force the Trump team and the media to change their narrative regarding “collusion.” /end

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