Samuel Northrup, Editor-in-Chief
Americans woke up to Halloween week with a shocking development in the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election lead by Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller.
Former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, a former Manafort business associate, Rick Gates, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos were all indicted Monday.
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty that same day to 12 counts, which included conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to launder money, while Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, according to Business Insider.
As the events that transpired marked the largest development to date in special counsel Mueller’s investigation, some of the names involved came as a surprise.
News of Manafort’s indictment came as no shock to professor of government at Utica College Nathaniel Richmond, while Papadopoulos’s involvement was not expected.
“The Papadopoulos one was a huge surprise, and that’s actually the more important one because that guy has already plead guilty and cut a deal,” Richmond said. “We’ll have to see what kind of info he has brought to the Mueller investigation, but that’s the real surprise.”
Inquiry into Manafort’s involvement with Russia while with the Trump campaign has been ongoing, with the lobbyist testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in July on a meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer believed to have compromising information on the Clinton campaign.
Manafort and his associate Gates are charged with several serious counts, including conspiracy against the United States, related to lobbying work between 2006 and 2015, according to the New York Times.
None of the charges are related to treason and the incidents in question occurred before Trump launched his campaign. However, this is something that could change, Richmond says.
“First of all, Mueller could amend the indictment as more info comes out,” he said. “He can add charges, he can cut a deal with Manafort to get him to talk about more recent things and possibly to point to other members of the Trump administration or transition team during the campaign for working with Russia. So, there’s a lot that can still happen.”
While Manafort is the more high-profile of the two Trump campaign workers, Richmond feels that Papadopoulos could be a source of further incriminating evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Per Business Insider, Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in early 2016, “secretly pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with foreign nationals who knew he had ties to senior Russian government officials.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to find out after he cut a deal with Mueller and that Papadopoulos may have taped other Trump administration officials or campaign officials and caught them making statements that will later get them arrested and charged,” Richmond said.
According to the New York Times, the White House said the indictments had nothing to do with Trump or his campaign and “instead sought to refocus attention on Democrats and their actions during the race.”
Taking to Twitter shortly after news of the indictments broke, President Trump wrote: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary and the Dems the focus?????” The president had a follow-up tweet shortly after: “….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Richmond says Monday’s incident could mark the “the beginning of the end for this administration,” something he expects may not arrive right away as the Mueller investigation continues.
“This the Watergate of our generation, of this generation I should say,” he said. “It’s even more serious and more sinister than Watergate was because because we did that to ourselves. This is Russia using and manipulating the American political system and the American people and letting Russia have influence over American politics.”
Oct. 31 NYC terror attack
8 are dead and another 12 injured after being struck by a truck in a Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center memorial Tuesday afternoon.
The driver, now identified as Sayfullo Saipov of Uzbekistan, drove a Home Depot rental truck into a bike lane then drove “several blocks before slamming into a school bus and coming to a stop,” according to CBS News.
Saipov, 29, was shot by police and taken into custody after exiting the car and shouting “God is great” in Arabic, per CBS News.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, per NBC News, in an address with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, called the event “an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.”
As of Nov. 1, according to ABC News, Saipov has been charged in connection to the attack and is eligible for the death penalty.