On Monday, October 30, the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were released. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates have been indicted in the investigation. Paul Cambria spoke to WBEN about the indictments and what they may mean in the investigation going forward. The full interview is available on the WBEN website.
Conspiracy against the United States
One of the charges against Manafort and Gates is conspiracy against the United States. When asked about the severity of this charge, Mr. Cambria replied, “That’s actually a very basic charge and any case where they charge conspiracy to commit any of the federal offenses is charged under the so-called Section 371, which is conspiracy against the United States. It sounds a lot more ominous than it is. It only carries 5 years; it’s probably the lightest of all the charges that they’re facing.”
Trial or plea bargain
WBEN asked Mr. Cambria if he expects the case to go to trial or if he expects plea deals. “On the federal side, plea deals are very common because we have what they call sentencing guidelines and the guidelines give you less time in jail if you plead guilty than if you were convicted,” he responded. Mr. Cambria explained that defense attorneys and their clients have to weigh taking the chance of losing at trial and facing more jail time with the hope of getting less time in jail with a plea bargain.
“In this case, we really don’t know, at least, what the facts are. If it’s as clear cut as the allegations—you know, you’re either registered or you’re not registered as a lobbyist for a foreign national. I mean, that’s one of the charges. Did you claim or not the money that you were paid on your income taxes? That’s another charge. Those could be relatively straightforward and they would give everybody the incentive to plea bargain because you’re going to lose,” Mr. Cambria went on.
Mr. Cambria was then asked whether he thinks prosecutors are looking to have Manafort or Gates take a plea bargain in the hopes that they will get closer to the Trump administration. “That’s always the goal: that you’re going to charge somebody and they’re going to know someone more important than they are that they can turn in,” Mr. Cambria explained. “Whether or not Manafort and others know things here to point the finger at the President is another story. We don’t know the answer to that. But, if they do, you can bet their lawyer is going to say, ‘Well, you know, here’s a good result for you but you have to cooperate.’”
George Papadopoulos’ arrest and plea
Along with Manafort and Gates’ indictments, it was revealed on October 30 that, earlier that month, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about meeting a professor with Russian ties in order to gain information on Hillary Clinton. Although Papadopoulos was arrested in July, information on his arrest and subsequent plea was not released publicly until late October. When WBEN asked Mr. Cambria if this timing was unusual, he responded, “No, if he’s cooperating.”
“He could have been cooperating in a secret way for them, acting as an informant. We really don’t know everything that’s been going on with him but, I mean, that’s one of the possibilities,” Mr. Cambria went on.
What is more unusual, Mr. Cambria told WBEN, is how devoid of leaks the rest of Mueller’s investigation has been. “It’s very unusual,” he said. “Usually everything is out but, when you have a special prosecutor and a small group of prosecutors who are working with them, it’s probably much easier.”
“A lot of times, these leaks go through, believe it or not, police agencies, lawyers, staffers. There’s all sorts of opportunities there to leak information,” Mr. Cambria explained.
About Paul J. Cambria Jr.
The chair of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Cambria advises clients on criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense. He divides his time between the firm’s offices in Buffalo and Los Angeles.