12 Counts Later: Robert Mueller Makes Progress in Russian Probe of Trump Campaign


Steven Bishop (11th), Reporter

On October 30, the special counsel investigating the presidential campaign of Donald Trump  headed by Robert Mueller indicted campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates with twelve felony counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements, and several charges involving foreign bank and financial accounts that were not reported. Mueller and Gates are pleading not guilty on all charges.

Being indicted means that a grand jury consisting of sixteen to twenty-three individuals found that the party wishing to accuse, in this case Mueller and the special counsel, have enough evidence to send a formal accusation to another party, Manafort and Gates, they believe committed a crime. Indictments originate from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

This indictment follows the charges brought against former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. He is pleading guilty to lying to federal agents who were investigating whether Papadopoulos was dealing with Russian officials to receive information about Hillary Clinton and using that information for the benefit of the Trump campaign.

Congress is also involved in investigations against the Trump campaign; however, they do not have the ability to press criminal charges. Congress only has the ability to hold hearings, propose legislation, and issue reports to change or prevent interference from foreign entities in the future.

This process is being hindered by partisan disagreement. Democratic and Republican congressional members are disagreeing on the importance of investigating or how to progress in investigating the Trump campaign. With little to no authority and tedious progress being made, the legislative route to investigating the Trump campaign is producing near meaningless results.

Tech enterprises Twitter, Facebook, and Google have faced congressional hearings about how their user platforms were used to show Russian generated ads that number to more than 3000 to millions of registered voters. The ads focused on issues widely debated in the presidential and congressional campaigns such as gun control and immigration. Congress can enforce the companies to change their practices but are receiving pushback that will be difficult to overcome. The Tech Companies have since apologized for their mismanagement of advertisements and have promised to change their practices in the future. The only real punishment being handed out is a light slap on the wrist.

President Trump in response to the claims made against his campaign on Twitter has stated that the alleged crimes occurred “years ago” and that there has been “NO COLLUSION” between his campaign and Russian officials.

The outcome of the trials of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have yet to finish. They may face up to forty years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if found guilty. Their first court date will be on May 7, 2018.