Observations of an ex pat: To collude or not to collude

Donald Trump and his mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani are right: Collusion is not a crime.

In fact, there is no crime of “collusion” in the US federal code.

There is, however, a law against “conspiracy.”

Conspiracy means that you planned an illegal act with others.  You didn’t have to commit the act. Just planning it is a crime. If the crime was committed and you knew about it then you are an accomplice.

If a person helps to plan the robbery of the Bank of England but is in another country during the actual theft of the gold bullion, they are just as guilty as the hooded gunmen who broke into the vaults.

As well as a law against conspiracy, there is a US law against a federal campaign accepting something of value from a foreign agent.  This can be money or information.

There is also a law against obstruction of justice. That law is breached when a person obstructs , threatens or coerces prosecutors.

And finally, there is the federal election Law which requires candidates for elected federal office to declare all campaign expenditures, including those made to prevent the publication or broadcast of information detrimental to their campaign.

Donald Trump is being investigated for violations of all of the above. And the net is tightening, which could explain why his tweeted protestations of innocence and attacks on chief investigator Robert Mueller are growing increasingly shrill.

This week the public’s mind has been focused on the conspiracy charge because the trial of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort has started in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort is not on trial for anything involving the Trump campaign. Instead he is charged with a 18 counts related to tax evasion, money laundering and bank fraud. And that is just the current trial. Manafort faces a second trial in September in a Washington DC court at which he is due to be charged with making false claims under the Foreign Agent Registration Act and witness tampering.

Although neither of the above trials directly relates to the Trump campaign,  Manafort is still a central figure in the claims that Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Manafort—and possibly the president himself—conspired with agents of the Russian government to receive information to help Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton.

The claims involve the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the three men, British music publicist Rob Goldstone and several well-connected Russians. The meeting was set up by Goldstone who told Trump Junior that the Russians had some “dirt” on Hillary. “I love it,” Trump Junior tweeted back.

What happened at that meeting, and who knew what when has been the subject of several congressional interrogations, investigations and reports.  It remains central to the Mueller investigation. Did they talk dirt about Hillary? Or did they talk about sanctions against Russia? Or did they, as Trump Junior disingenously initially claimed, discuss the adoption of Russian babies? Did Donald Trump know they were talking?  And finally, does it matter if they actually talked dirt if the Trump campaign went into the meeting expecting dirt?

Manafort knows. But he is not saying. The theory is that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, has compiled a list of charges that can put Trump’s former campaign manager in prison for life. And he will drop the charges if Manafort flips and turns on his former boss.

So far there is no sign of a flipped Manafort. This could be for several reasons. He may think he can best Mueller in court. He may be innocent. He may have been promised a pardon by the White House or—given the Russian penchant for murdering political opponents abroad—he or his family may have been threatened by Moscow.

Regardless, the Manafort trial is only the first wave in Mueller’s assault against the White House.  Thirty-two people have been indicted to date. He is slow, methodical, and determined. He won’t give up. No matter how many times the President tweets his demand for Mueller’s dismissal.

 

* Tom Arms is a Wandsworth Lib Dem and produces and presents the podcast www.lookaheadnews.com

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6 Comments

  • John Marriott 3rd Aug '18 - 9:36am

    Trump is turning into the Teflon President. What few seem to wish to consider, on both sides of the Atlantic, is whether their systems of so called ‘representative democracy’, most established several centuries ago, are fit for purpose any more.

    As far as the US model is concerned it seems to me to boil down to a kind of elected ‘Kingship’. With our own system apparently moving towards the presidential, personality driven style, is it any wonder that we too appear to be putting our faith in people who either appear adept to climbing the greasy pole with rhinoceros hides to boot.

  • John Marriott 3rd Aug '18 - 9:41am

    Sorry, that last sentence should read: “Is it any wonder that we too appear to be putting our faith in people who are adept at climbing the greasy pole with rhinoceros hides to boot?”

  • We will see how this all pans out when the Mueller investigation reports and his team is not leaking anything at all. An American professor who predicted Trump’s election and the results of Presidential elections going back to the ’80s has predicted Trump’s impeachment.

    But…

    Despite the mass of coverage in the American media there is little I find to get excited here and I would love to see Trump impeached! Campaigns conduct opposition research. We do know that the Clinton campaign received information from a foreign agent on Trump – the Steele dossier. All sides agree that nothing of use was given at the meeting. For the moment at least Mueller has said that Trump is only a subject of the investigation and not a target.

    I would actually disagree with @John Marriott – I think democracy is working pretty well in the USA – even if i disagree with who they elected president. We have a very strong legal investigation of the President – proving he is not “above the law”, a very vibrant free press and the separation between the executive and lawmakers.

  • Donald Trump has been here before with the US Rico laws.
    Art Cohen vs. Donald J. Trump was a civil RICO class action suit accusing Donald Trump of misrepresenting Trump University “to make tens of millions of dollars” but delivering “neither Donald Trump nor a university”. The case was being heard in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego and was scheduled for argument beginning November 28, 2016. However, shortly after Trump won the presidential election, this case and two others were settled for a total of $25 million and without any admission of wrongdoing by Trump.

  • The point about a presidential pardon is an interesting one. How do you “flip” a witness against the president with the promise of a reduced sentence or immunity when the president can just pardon you anyway?

  • Peter Hirst 4th Aug '18 - 11:16am

    What is the difference between collusion and conspiracy? They sound the same to me. The whole idea of foreign influence in our elections was foreign to me a year ago. As it becomes more of a reality, more the reason to tighten our rules about election spending, imposing limits and strengthening the investigatory powers.

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