Today in Criminal Justice News

Trump Maladministration

By now you’ve heard that yesterday Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was arrested and charged with felony invasion of privacy charges. The Springfield News-Leader says this is a class D felony, and no one expects he will face jail time if convicted. The charges are connected to his affair with his former hairdresser that I wrote about awhile back.

However, David Graham writes for The Atlantic that the FBI is investigating Greitens also, and  there have been hints and grumblings in the local newspapers about campaign finance violations surrounding Greitens. So he may yet get into more trouble.

He has sworn not to resign from office, but today he resigned his position on the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association. Lots of news stories today are referring to him as a one-time rising star of the Republican Party. He was planning to run for POTUS some day, apparently. I guess not.

In other news — Rick Gates just pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States. I was under the impression that Mueller had already flipped him, but apparently that wasn’t so; he was only just now flipped.

Dylan Matthews explains the indictment:

So let’s be clear: “Conspiracy against the United States” isn’t what it sounds like. It has nothing to do with foreign actors influencing an election. It certainly has nothing to do with treason, which would require the US and Russia to be actively at war with each other.

The statute, rather, is an extension of the ordinary crime of conspiracy. Basically, Gates has admitted to conspiring to commit offenses against, and to defraud the US government. The offenses involve false statements or misrepresentations of financial and lobbying activity. He is also pleading guilty to a single charge of false statements, but not to other offenses alleged as part of the initial indictment, which should reduce his potential prison sentence.

“The statute defines separate and additional offenses if two or more people enter into an illegal agreement with the intent to engage in criminal conduct, and commit an overt act in furtherance of that agreement,” Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor of law at Duke who specializes in criminal law and criminal procedure, told me last October.

The “two or more people” are, of course, Gates and Paul Manafort, and this all relates to indictments for money laundering efforts that Mueller brought against them for in October. However, I understand that the charges Gates pleaded guilty to were from new indictments, not the same ones from October.

Among other things, we learned today that the pair created a “paper” trail because Manafort didn’t know how to convert PDFs into Word documents. Manafort wanted to falsify company documents but couldn’t figure out how to make changes on a PDF. So he and Gates were emailing files back and forth as Gates did the file conversions and Manafort edited the files.

I guess what we learn from this is “Don’t do the crime if you can’t cough up the $2 a month for the Adobe package that allows you to convert PDF files to Word by yourself.” That may need some work.

See also Tierney Sneed at Talking Points Memo:

The filing by Mueller outlined two counts that prosecutors were bringing against Gates in a “superseding information.” An information typically precedes a plea agreement. Those charges are significantly less than what was in the earlier indictments filed against Gates, suggesting that it is a precursor to Gates pleading guilty in an agreement with Mueller.

The first count is conspiracy against the United States. The second count is for making a false statement. Remarkably the alleged false statement was made by Gates to the Special Counsel’s Office and the FBI on Feb. 1, months after the original indictment was issued, according to the information. That suggests Gates lied in the course of plea negotiations. His lawyers moved to withdraw from the case the same day.

Gates’ apparent decision to cooperate with Mueller followed an unexpected and dramatic path, including a drawn-out effort to switch up his legal team and a new set of charges filed by Mueller that were revealed Thursday evening.

This may tell us why Gates’s lawyers wanted off his case; they knew he was lying.

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  1. onkelbob  •  Feb 23, 2018 @7:07 pm

    Oh and there's this little Twitter chain on Phil Bump's account:

    Which when you read it, indicates that Mr. Mueller, while hunting buffalo, (Manafort) may end up bringing down an elephant (Rohrbacher!!) with the same shot.

    Oh please FSM, if you can wrap this up with a 1000 tentacles your acolytes will burn the sacred sage and consume the holy whisky in celebration!!

  2. Doug  •  Feb 23, 2018 @7:45 pm

    Poor Manifort! He's got to choose between life in prison or a polonium milk shake.

  3. Doug  •  Feb 23, 2018 @8:05 pm

    In order for a grand jury to return charges, did someone discover the actual picture? If not how was the allegation substantial enough. There is the recording submitted by the x-husband of the photo victim but was that enough?

  4. Doug  •  Feb 23, 2018 @8:57 pm

    A few things that aren't being widely discussed.  At the time Manifort joined the Trump campaign he was $17 million in debt to a Russian, according to a NY Times story from last year & records in Cyprus. For the year prior to joining the Trump campaign, Manifort and Gates were engaged in widespread fraud in desperate and illegal schemes to borrow money that failed. They were caught red-handed with documents they falsified and submitted. This also involves STATE income tax fraud, which Trump can not issue a pardon for.

    This gets weird.  On the day Manifort was fired from the campaign he opened an LLC trying to shield his identity and soon after received loans from a Trump cohort totaling – drum roll – $16 million. Something is odd though. Allegations are that the banker made the loans in expectation he'd be made Secretary of the Army – he reportedly made (and there are documented) calls to the Pentagon from the guy re the future prospective job. Why did he think this payoff was likely when Manifort had just been canned? 

    In my paranoid mind, the most likely scenario is that when Manifort was canned and severed from the potential income of inside influence, he reminded (extorted is a harsh word) Trump that he (Manifort) had inside information and to go quietly Manifort needed a golden parachute big enough to prevent being kneecapped by the Russian Jabba the Hut who anticipated getting his blood money through favors. A run-on sentence if I ever saw one. But you get the idea.

    Where's the proof? Where is the $16 million? If all that money was wired to Russia, then what's the status of the loan? Was the loan forgiven? Or mysteriously paid off AND $16 Mil wired to the Russian connection? That adds up to $32 million. If a Russia payoff was made and the loan was satisfied, who coughed up $16 million to pay back the bank? Manifort was unemployed. 

    Mueller has the answers, I bet. The entire Manifort defense seems to be a dubious claim that Mueller doesn't have jurisdiction. Even if that was true, the evidence could be transferred to a prosecutor with jurisdiction and Manifort would be looking at dying in jail. Unless Trump pardons, which seems to be Manifort's expectation though it leaves Manifort at risk of state charges.

    If Trump saves Manifort, an Obstruction of Justice trial somewhere downstream seems almost certain. Manifort seems to think what he may have on Trump is worth the risk to Trump.

    Pass the popcorn.

  5. uncledad  •  Feb 23, 2018 @10:57 pm

    It's almost too bad he ( Greitens ) is going down for being a devient, he would have such made a great pro-gun semi-auto poster boy! Never trust a man who likes to tie people up and who's last name is plural!

  6. Swami  •  Feb 23, 2018 @11:05 pm

    Doug …There won't be a polonium milkshake for Manafort. Deripaska is as pleased a punch for the return he got on his 19 million dollars he loaned to Manafort. He called of the dogs. And dollar for dollar it's probably the best investment the Russian's could have made. To buy the Presidency of  the United States for less than the cost of an F-35 jet fighter. And even if it's only going to be on a temporary basis. The quality of the Russian's interference will remain long after the price is forgotten.

     And the sweetest part of the deal is that Manafort is going to be sitting in a cement cell for the rest of his life. It's like skullduggerys' finest hour.

  7. uncledad  •  Feb 23, 2018 @11:32 pm

    Russia and Trump and the 2016 election have put us on a ledge. Are we going to believe that we have failed because the bad guy won a legimiate election, or we going to accept that every thing is just fine and the election was rigged. To me it seems Mueller has to convice both sides!

  8. Swami  •  Feb 24, 2018 @4:03 am

    It's been an exciting week.. Now we get to look forward to General Kelly undergoing another round of submission and humiliation in carrying out Trump's directive to do what's right for America in deciding whether to shitcan Jared Kushner because he knows Jared will never be able to get a security clearance. Given Jared's golden boy status as a protected species in being Trump's son in law, it's not going to be easy to do the right thing when the right thing would be to bounce Jared's ass out of the White House.

    The only way I could see it working out is if Jared is looking for an exit strategy and would welcome the chance to depart while putting the blame for his departure on career officials left over from the Obama administration.

     However it works out,Kelly is in a tough spot,and his credibility and reputation are going to lose a little more luster. Drop to your knees, Kelly, so Trump can have his way with you.

  9. Doug  •  Feb 24, 2018 @11:25 am

    I balk at the word, "legitimate'. The Constitution doesn't provide for a do-over. We can't calculate if Russian interference made the difference in the election. But before we decide, "legitimate", let's find out if there was qui-pro-quo cooperation. If Trump provided support to the Russian effort on his behalf and if Trump also knew specifically what the Russians expected from Trump, this was not a "legitimate" election, even if votes of the Electoral College were tallied correctly. I'm not sure of the law on the matter, but if Trump knew that the Russians were breaking the law on his behalf and Trump did not report the crime, I  question the legitimacy of Trump's election, even if Congress will not impeach. For historical purposes, I'd like to see Trump's picture overlaid with that red round symbol with the bar across it indicating the shame to the country this president was.