News & Politics

The circle of corruption: Here’s where things stand with 5 Trump-tied figures caught in Robert Mueller’s probe

Trump has surrounded himself with shady figures.

Photo Credit: Max Goldberg

No matter how much President Donald Trump’s obsequious carnival barkers at Fox News scoff at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related investigation, there is no question that Mueller and his team have uncovered an abundance of major crimes—from obstruction of justice to tax evasion to bank fraud. Trump himself has not been charged with anything, but the phrase “flock of felons” (which veteran television journalist Dan Rather has used to describe some of president’s allies) easily applies to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates and other Trump associates who have been caught up in Mueller’s investigation and either confessed to major crimes or been convicted of them. And Mueller’s Russiagate probe moves along with week, with sentencing memos expected for Manafort as well as Michael Flynn (former national security advisor in the Trump Administration).

Here is where things presently stand with several Trump associates, allies or former allies who have been caught up in Mueller’s investigation.

1. Michael Flynn

In December 2017, Michael Flynn flipped on Trump, agreed to cooperate fully with Mueller’s investigation, and admitted to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And this week, Mueller is expected to file a sentencing memo on Flynn. The memo could offer some insights on how valuable a witness Mueller considers Flynn to be in his investigation.

2. Paul Manafort

Most of the Trump associates who have flipped on Trump and agreed to a plea deal with Mueller’s office have been highly cooperative—from Michael Flynn to George Papadopoulos (a foreign policy advisor for Trump’s 2016 campaign) to Michael Cohen to Rick Gates, who was a Trump campaign aide and became the prosecution’s star witness in Paul Manafort’s trial during the Summer of 2018. In September, Manafort (who served as Trump’s campaign manager before Kellyanne Conway joined the campaign) agreed to a plea deal with Mueller in order to avoid a second trial (the summer trial had resulted in eight convictions for crimes ranging from tax fraud to bank fraud).

But in late November, Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller fell apart: the special counsel alleged that Trump’s former campaign manager had been lying to federal investigators—a major violation of their agreement. In other words, Mueller alleges that Manafort never really flipped on Trump. Mueller is expected to release a sentencing memo on Manafort by this Friday, December 7—and Manafort, 69, could spend the rest of his life in a federal prison. However, Trump has stated that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a presidential pardon for Manafort at some point.

3. Michael Cohen

A sentencing memo has been filed on Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney. When Cohen appeared in a federal court in Manhattan on November 29, he admitted to lying to Congress about plans for a Trump real estate project in Russia and a proposed Trump Tower Moscow. And that is on top of the crimes he confessed to last summer. On August 22—the same day Manafort was convicted of eight crimes—Cohen confessed to eight charges that ranged from tax fraud to bank fraud to campaign finance violations.

The crimes that Cohen admitted to on August 22 were not part of a plea agreement with Mueller’s office but rather, with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. On November 29, however, a plea deal with Mueller’s office was announced. And according to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Cohen could offer “dozens of hours of testimony potentially damaging to” Trump.

4. Roger Stone

Mueller’s team has been investigating long-time Trump ally Roger Stone and far-right author/conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to determine how much advance knowledge they had, in 2016, of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish the hacked Democratic e-mails of John Podesta (Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). According to Mueller’s office, the hacker who stole those e-mails and went by Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian government official in Moscow; however, Stone has maintained that there is no evidence proving that Guccifer 2.0 is Russian or has any direct connection to the Russian government.

Stone has repeatedly stressed that he will not flip on Trump, and the president has praised Stone for having “guts” and refusing any type of plea deal with Mueller.

5. Jerome Corsi

Mueller’s office offered the 72-year-old Corsi a plea deal: if he will plead guilty to lying to federal investigators in connection with the Russia-related investigation, he will get probation rather than jail time. Corsi, however, has maintained that he didn’t lie to investigators and has stressed that he will not agree to a plea deal—even if his refusal means that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. Corsi has filed a formal complaint against Mueller with the U.S. Justice Department, accusing his office of misconduct.

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.