As just about everyone knows by now, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed superseding indictments against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates in federal court on Thursday. But the most important development of the week came this afternoon when Gates pleaded guilty to 2 federal charges as part of a plea deal with the special counsel’s office.
The Justice Department’s website is a goldmine of information, and includes all of the relevant documents that have been filed in the last 24 hours. For example, the superseding indictment against Manafort is available here. As part of his plea agreement, Gates agreed to a statement of the offense, which is available here, and the superseding charging document filed by Mueller’s office in the Gates case is available here. Perhaps most interesting of all is the Gates plea agreement itself, which you can find here.
Neither the Manafort nor the Gates indictment makes any allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as Quinta Jurecic points out in an excellent analysis of the indictments on the Lawfare blog.
But a theme certainly seems to be taking shape in Mueller's investigation. When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hired Mueller on May 17, 2017, he ordered Mueller to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." Here's a copy of Mueller's appointment letter.
The key point is Mueller clearly believes that Manafort's political consulting work in Ukraine is within the jurisdiction of the special counsel's office, which suggests that Mueller sees a connection to it that arises "directly" from his investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign. The full extent and nature of those connections are unknown. But it is noteworthy that the special counsel has now secured convictions of Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, and a Trump campaign staffer, Richard Gates, among others. And Mueller currently has charges pending against Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager. Those of us on the outside can only speculate as to where all of this is leading, but it certainly appears that Robert Mueller has a very clear sense of where his investigation is ultimately going.
It will be quite interesting, therefore, to see how President Trump responds to the indictments over the weekend. The president set a personal record on his Twitter account last weekend, Tweeting about everything from Oprah Winfrey to the Daytona 500 to the FBI. But it would seem that he has even more to Tweet about this weekend, unless his lawyers freeze his Twitter account.