On Friday morning, special counsel Robert Mueller released a “superseding criminal information”—essentially a new indictment of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief. Soon after, Manafort appeared in federal court to cop a plea—in a deal that includes cooperation with Mueller—to avoid a second trial involving charges of fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering. And this latest filing was Mueller’s way of presenting to the public the case he and his prosecutors were prepared to lay out in court. The document describes in detail a comprehensive and long-running criminal conspiracy mounted by Manafort, who was found guilty of eight counts of bank and tax fraud in a recent trial, to hide the covert lobbying campaign he managed for a corrupt and pro-Putin political party in Ukraine and to keep secret the millions of dollars he collected for his mighty efforts. The document ends with two counts to which Manafort has now admitted guilt: conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The new information recounts a melange of deception, chicanery, and skullduggery, with Manafort orchestrating lobbyists, lawyers, and politicians in the United States and around the globe on behalf of the party of Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych (who fled Ukraine for Russia in 2014) and encouraging them all to lie about who was pulling the strings: Manafort and his Ukrainian paymasters. The case is strong, and Mueller’s team seemingly caught Manafort in a multitude of lies. The information basically covers all the charges Manafort faced in both trials. That is, by agreeing to this, Manafort is saying, everything Mueller alleged was true, this was no witch hunt, he got me, I was a big-time criminal.