Manafort’s Swamp Draining Should Not Dirty Trump’s Presidency


CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

The inditement of Paul Manafort has no association to President Trump in regards to an alleged collusion with Russia (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Timothy Kyle

The inditement of Paul Manafort has no association to President Trump in regards to an alleged collusion with Russia (Courtesy of Flickr)

“Drain the Swamp” is not simply a campaign-savvy phrase spouted at political opponents, as those in Washington are quickly learning.

On Monday, the Robert Mueller-led FBI team formally indicted Paul Manafort, a prominent D.C. lobbyist and former Trump campaign chairman, on 12 charges. Manafort has long been a fixture of the establishment in Washington, working on Republican campaigns since 1976, when he helped Gerald R. Ford marshal primary delegates at his own Republican convention (as he did with Trump). He also has a documented history of less-than-legal dealings with foreign governments, lobbying on the behalf of dictators such as Congolese strongman Mobutu Seto. Manafort’s company also reportedly signed a deal with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a personal friend of Putin’s, in 2005 to promote Putin’s interests through their lobbying. In simple terms, Manafort is a sleaze and a crook.

This indictment looks pretty damning for Trump, correct? Not exactly. According to The Washington Post, the investigations into Manafort’s financial improprieties predate the Trump campaign by a number of years, beginning in 2014. Mueller’s charges against Manafort actually have nothing to do with Manafort’s stint as Trump’s campaign chairman—they are entirely based on Manafort’s scheming in Ukraine in 2014 where he and his associates potentially laundered up to 75 million dollars. In fact, Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign in August of 2016, months before the election—and, as The Washington Post reports, Manafort and Trump have not spoken since February.

The question remains as to why Mueller chose to indict a man on charges entirely unrelated to Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia. Not a single one of the 12 charges issued against Manafort have anything to do with Trump or the Trump campaign. Several options are open. The first, and most likely, is that Manafort was simply caught by the wide net of the Mueller investigation and charged based on his previous crimes. The second, and more interesting, is that Mueller will leverage Manafort’s charges against him to get him to “talk” in return for a lesser sentence. Manafort’s ties with Trump go back a long time—Time reports he has owned property in Trump Tower as early as 2006—and he may have dirt on potential campaign dealings with Russia. However, if this is not the case, it would appear that Mueller’s investigation has taken on a different scope than was originally intended —charging Manafort with unrelated financial crimes is not relevant to the intent of the Special Counsel.
Ultimately, the Manafort indictments were not the death knell for the Trump presidency many left-wing commentators hoped they would be. Is Manafort a shady person who Trump shouldn’t have been dealing with? Maybe. But the president or the president’s dealings with Russia are not mentioned in the indictments at all.

The year of the crimes committed predates any Trump’s attempts at the presidency. Pressure is now building on Mueller to announce a relevant finding for the investigation, which is increasingly being castigated by the President and members of Congress as a witch-hunt. Personally, I’d be fine with Mueller continuing to dredge up “swamp creatures” and take dirty money out of our political system. “Drain the swamp,” Mr. Mueller. Someone has to.


Timothy Kyle, FCRH ’21, is a political science major from West Hartford, Connecticut.