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Robert Mueller Puts the Squeeze on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates Yet Again

Manafort has some thinking to do. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Paul Manafort joined the Donald Trump campaign as chairman, he bragged that he’d be doing so without pay — as if he was fulfilling some higher, altruistic purpose in working for the outsider candidate. Now we know, thanks to a superseding indictment Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained on Thursday against him and his longtime associate, Rick Gates, that the pair were paying themselves handsomely before, during, and after the presidential election. The 32-count charging document, filed in a federal courtroom in Virginia, accuses the men of an elaborate scheme to defraud both the United States and private financial institutions by failing to accurately report their taxes or seeking bank loans using false information, among other charges.

Like the charges they were already facing, the new indictment is astonishing in its detail — both Manafort and Gates are portrayed in it as active cooperators in a conspiracy to hide from the federal government tens of millions of dollars that they stashed in offshore accounts and then wired to the U.S. for various questionable business projects, and without telling the IRS about it. Much of it was already laid out in Mueller’s original indictment against the two defendants in October. But the new round of charges paints a more complete picture about the tax implications of the already-known money-laundering accusations — remember Manafort’s penchant for expensive suits and antique rugs? — and adds additional counts for another scheme to obtain millions in fraudulent bank loans from a number of sources. This latter set of charges — which involved overblowing their income or concealing their liabilities — is interesting because they arose in the heat of the presidential campaign and through the transition, in which Gates played a role.

As with anything the special counsel does, we only see through a glass, darkly. But what’s certain with Thursday’s new and improved indictment is that it’s designed to exert more pressure on Manafort and Gates to give up the fight and plead guilty rather than go head-to-head with Mueller’s team in court. At least as to Gates, the tactic may be working: Just as the new charges were made public, Tom Green, a prominent attorney known for cutting favorable plea deals for his clients, asked to become Gates’s new lawyer in the separate Washington case. But with such a hefty case already against him, Gates is unlikely to catch a break without first agreeing to give Mueller something in return. That may mean flipping on his business associate, Manafort — and testifying against him if he has to. But would that threat be enough to get Manafort to flip against a bigger fish, perhaps his former landlord at Trump Tower? Only time will tell.

Mueller Puts the Squeeze on Manafort and Gates Yet Again