Former Prosecutor: 'If Trump's Campaign Chair Conspiring with a Suspected Russian Operative Isn't 'Collusion,' What Is?'
President Donald Trump frequently insists that there was "no collusion" between his associates and Russia, but a new indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller makes that talking point completely futile now, as former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti explained Friday.
Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager during a crucial portion of the campaign, had already been charged with several counts of money laundering, tax evasion, and failing to register as a foreign agent. But the new allegations in Mueller's indictment on Friday show a direct link to an individual, Konstantin Kilimnik, believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.
"This 'superseding' indictment replaces the D.C. indictment and adds new charges against Manafort," Mariotti explained on Twitter. "Specifically it adds charges that Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to obstruct justice by working together to tamper with witnesses."
He added: "That evidence would likely be extremely damaging to Manafort at trial--if he was innocent, why would he try to engage in witness tampering?"
These new charges suggest Manafort is under even more pressure than he was before, raising the likelihood that he could begin cooperating with Mueller. But beyond the direct effects this indictment will have on Manafort, Mariotti argued that it had wider implications for the Russia investigation as a whole.
"The indictment is more significant from a broader perspective. It is Mueller's first indictment charging an American and a Russian for working together to commit a crime. He charged the former chair of Trump's campaign and a suspected Russian intel operative with conspiracy," he said.
"'Collusion' is not a legal term," Mariotti continued. "Conspiracy is. But if Trump's campaign chair conspiring with a suspected Russian operative isn't 'collusion,' what is? This should force the Trump team and the media to change their narrative regarding 'collusion.'"