Russia Inquiry

All of Mueller’s Indictments and Guilty Pleas Explained

First things first: What is an indictment?

  • It’s a formal accusation of a serious crime.
  • A grand jury has to first determine that there is enough reason or proof to charge an individual of that crime. Just like with usual juries, grand juries are composed of civilians. However, they meet with the prosecutor and witnesses in what is a secret proceeding.
  • The prosecutor goes to the grand jury and presents the evidence he or she has against a potential defendant and tries to obtain an indictment – a formal accusation – from the grand jury.
  • The Fifth Amendment is the reason why we have grand juries and indictments: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…”


What about guilty pleas?

  • As you probably know, they are an admission of guilt before the trial even starts. Often, prosecutors will offer better deals (plea bargains) if a defendant pleads guilty.
  • Guilty pleas are seen as cost-effective to the government because they save the time and money of a long trial.


Who has been indicted (and not pled guilty)?

  • Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

    • Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager from June to August 2016. Gates is Manafort’s longtime business partner and served as Manafort’s deputy campaign manager. They served for years as political consultants and lobbyists.
    • They were charged with money laundering. Specifically, they were charged with acting as unregistered agents of Ukrainian government. They earned millions of dollars as a result of that work and, in order to hide the Ukrainian payments, they allegedly laundered the money through shell companies.
    • They both pled not guilty. However, it has been reported that Gates is working on a plea deal with Special Counsel Mueller.
    • Mueller just filed new charges against both of them but they are under seal.
    • Update: Rick Gates has just pled guilty and is cooperating with Mueller. Manafort has additionally been charged with recruiting and funding European politicians to lobby in the US on behalf of Ukraine.
  • 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies
    • They have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the US by meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. Some of the individuals were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and with aggravated identity theft.
    • They allegedly pretended to be US persons, created fake identities and social media pages and bought advertisements in order to meddle with the results of the elections.
    • Two of the individuals also allegedly traveled to the US to collect information for their operations.


Who has pled guilty so far (and by definition, indicted)?

  • George Papadopoulos
    • He served as a foreign policy advisor for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
    • He pled guilty to lying to the FBI in January 2017. This is what the guilty plea states about Papadopoulos’ lies. The court document gives us detailed information about Papadopoulos’ lies:
      • He claimed that his interactions with an overseas professor, who he understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials, occurred before he became a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the professor had told him about the Russians possessing “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, but stated multiple times that he learned that information prior to joining the campaign. In truth, Papadopoulos met with the professor after learning he would be working for Trump’s campaign.
      • Papadopoulos denied knowing that the professor was connected to the Russian government. In reality, however, he knew about the professor’s connections.
      • Papadopoulos claimed he met a certain female Russian national before he joined the Campaign and that their communications consisted of emails such as, “Hi, how are you?” In truth, he had met with the female Russian national after he became adviser to Trump’s campaign and he believed that she had connections to Russian government officials and he sought to use those connections by trying to arrange a meeting between Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials.
    • Michael Flynn
      • Just like Papadopoulos, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI.
      • Flynn told the FBI that he did not ask the Russian Ambassador to the US to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the US had imposed against Russia. He also told the FBI that he did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to the sanctions as a result of his request.
      • Flynn also lied to the FBI when he told them that he did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.
    • Richard Pinedo
      • Pinedo pled guilty to identity fraud.
      • He operated an online service through which he offered a variety of services designed to circumvent the security features of large online digital payment companies. He sold bank account numbers online and many of these were created using stolen identities. Pinedo sold these bank account numbers to many individuals who were outside the US. (Even though the court documents don’t specify it, it is possible that Pinedo sold account numbers to Russians who were trying to use identities of Americans to buy advertisements in social media.)
      • As part of his plea deal, Pinedo agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
    • Alex van der Zwaan
      • Like Papadopoulos and Flynn, he pled guilty to lying to the FBI.
      • Paul Manafort had hired Van der Zwaan’s law firm to prepare a report for the then-President of the Ukraine.
      • Van der Zwaan lied to the FBI regarding communications he had with Rick Gates about the work they did for the Ukrainian government. He deleted or did not produce emails that Special Counsel Mueller requested and he lied about when was the last time he communicated with “Person A” (we don’t know who “Person A” is yet).
    • Updated: Rick Gates
      • Pled guilty to consipary and lying to investigators. He is cooperating with Mueller. See above for more details.


Who do you think is next?

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