2019s going to set people off. Robert Mueller’s indictment much ado about nothing critical essay Paul Manafort has many unusual features. More Thoughts on the Manafort Indictment, by Andrew C.
You never know what’s going to set people off. Some commentators took this to mean that, being in the tank for Trump, I am pooh-poohing Mueller’s opening gambit. Readers who follow these columns know that I am not knee-jerk pro- or anti-Trump. We’ll see if anything in it leads to information on Trump.
Paul Manafort leaves the U. Federal Court building in Washington, D. It contains puzzling gaps and non-standard tactics that may or may not end up making sense. And, while I concededly have strong political views, I try to be coldly clinical about legal questions and prosecution theories. That is my professional training, and the skill of being a prosecutor involves recognizing weaknesses in the case — you never want the defense lawyers to spot them first.
To be clear, I am not saying the case is unserious for Manafort and Richard Gates. Manafort case is utterly unrelated to that. Manafort and Gates appear to be guilty, which is a very consequential matter for them. Nevertheless, the indictment’s presentation of much of the case is overhyped.
Unquestionably, Mueller is not done with his investigation. I am more than a little surprised to be criticized by some for purportedly suggesting that this is the end, rather than the start, of the special counsel’s case. I have been saying since the summer that Mueller is trying to squeeze Manafort into becoming a cooperating witness. Necessarily, that means he plans to keep building his case. More to the point, there is a glaring omission in the indictment, which suggests that Mueller is planning to supersede it with more charges. Yet despite detailing that Manafort and Gates submitted fraudulent tax returns, the indictment does not accuse them of tax-law felonies that the prosecutors would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
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This is curious, and I don’t know if the explanation is substantive or administrative. I mean that there could be legal and factual issues unknown to me that complicate the taxability of Manafort’s prodigious foreign earnings. As a former prosecutor, I try to stay mindful of something that gets harder to remember as my prosecutor days recede in the rear-view mirror: There were always things about my cases that struck outsiders as odd but would not have if they had known what I knew. The prosecutors know things about their evidence that we don’t. They may have a good reason that I haven’t figured out for eschewing tax counts. Still, while I’m no expert in the specialized field of tax law, I have prosecuted tax charges.
So, it seems passing strange that there are no tax-fraud and evasion charges in a case that explicitly claims the defendants hid the existence of foreign income and dodged taxes — presumably, tens of millions of dollars owed on tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28. In my experience, Tax Division was notoriously slow to approve charges — in large part because many tax cases are complicated. I don’t know if this explains the absence of tax counts against Manafort.