GLENN: Andrew McCarthy, contributing editor, National Review, and AndrewCMcCarthy.com.
Andy, can you tell me what is -- can you walk us through the Paul Manafort story?
ANDREW: Well, to the extent we know it, Glenn, I think what happened is Manafort and the fellow that they say is a protégé of his, Richard Gates, worked as political consultants for the Kremlin-connected Ukrainian regime, from about 2005, 2006, up until the main guy there, Yanukovych, got ousted and fled to Moscow in 2014.
GLENN: Is it too much -- Andrew, is it too much to say that Paul Manafort played a big role in what led to the -- the revolution in -- in Ukraine? That they were rising up against the guy he was working for and strengthening?
ANDREW: Yeah. I would say, Glenn, not wanting to get too far ahead of what we know, the guy we were talking about certainly did lead to the chaos and worse that we have there now. And Manafort was obviously working for them. And if this indictment is to be believed, they made about $75 million in consulting.
ANDREW: So I don't think we can say that what he was doing was trivial. So that's for sure.
GLENN: Okay. So he was laundering money and not declaring money from that job.
ANDREW: Yes. What you're required to do -- this is the allegation. What you're required to do if you're an American citizen and you have control over a foreign bank account that has more than $10,000 in it at any point during the year, you have to disclose that. You don't have to do anything more than disclose it. But you have to disclose it. And you also have to do something on your tax return in the way of disclosure as well. So the allegation is that they didn't do that.
Whether the money laundering -- the money laundering looks like it's kind of a rickety count to me. It may hold up. But the theory behind the money laundering is that they were unregistered foreign agents when they were, as American citizens, required to register under federal law, at the time they were making all this money. And they then moved the money. So the idea is that, with money laundering, not to get too far in the weeds, you have to have unlawful proceeds in the first place that you then start to move around through bank accounts and change the form of. So you got to prove the challenge through a prosecutor. A money laundering case is to prove that the money was illegal in the first place, before you started moving it around. So my question here would be, is -- it's not illegal to make money, even from bad people outside the United States.
What -- what he did wrong here is failing to register as a foreign agent. To me, that doesn't necessarily mean that the earning of the money was criminal. It means that his failure to register was criminal. They're trying to bootstrap those two things together, in order to say that these are unlawful proceeds. Criminal proceeds. So that when they then start moving the money around, the money laundering laws get triggered. We'll have to see how that theory plays out.
GLENN: They're also saying that he didn't pay any taxes on that. But would he have to pay taxes if he left it -- if it wasn't repatrioted?
ANDREW: He would have to disclose it. And I think that's the main -- the main allegation here is the failure to disclose, not necessarily the failure to -- I don't see a tax evasion charge here.
ANDREW: I see a failure to disclose discharge.
GLENN: Okay. Just so people know, Andy McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. He's the guy that led the terrorism prosecution against The Blind Sheikh and 11 other people, with the '93 World Trade Center bombing. Also, was instrumental in the -- the bombing of the US embassy -- actually, the prosecution on the guys who bombed --
ANDREW: Yes, thank you.
GLENN: -- yeah, that bombed the embassies of Kenya and Tanzania. And so he has some real depth in this kind of stuff.
Andy, so I'm looking at this, and I'm thinking that, you know, if they could prove all of these -- here's a guy who is, what? Sixty-eight? Sixty-nine years old?
He's never leaving prison, if they can prove these things and get a jury to go along with it. Would you agree with that first?
ANDREW: I think that the indictment looks worse than the sentencing guidelines would look like. Like, for example, they're talking about a scheme that goes back to 2006. But the federal statute of limitations on most felonies is only five years, which is why when you look close at this, they're really only charging stuff that goes from 2012, forward, which cuts out a lot of the early lavish money that was involved.
There's also some sort of disturbing stacking of -- of accounts by Mueller's office. So, for example, they accused them of -- when they belatedly registered as foreign agents, making false statements on their -- on their form, that's fine.
Congress has a penalty for that, in the context of foreign agents, they make it a misdemeanor worth up to six months in jail, to make a false statement on a foreign agency -- a foreign agent registry form.
Mueller, for good measure, throws in a felony five-year full statements cap, that, you know, prosecutors use all the time.
You're not really supposed to do that, when Congress has prescribed a different penalty to the same behavior, you know, specifically addressing an area like registering as a foreign agent. Because you can't commit the one crime, without committing the other crime.
So what Mueller has done is taken something that Congress regards as a misdemeanor and turned it into a five and a half year felony. That kind of stuff, I think when courts look at it, they're not going to like it very much. So we'll see.
GLENN: So if you were -- if you were Manafort today, let's start with him. What would you be thinking, looking at this?
ANDREW: The same thing I have been thinking in July, when really gratuitously they got a search warrant and convinced a judge to let them break in, in the pre-dawn hours, with their guns drawn, while he's in bed with his wife. You know, I think they're squeezing me.
And it's clear, I think, what Mueller is doing here. Is that either he has reached an impasse in his investigation and he thinks that the only way he can find, if there's anything to this collusion business, is that -- is that Manafort is the guy who is the key to it. And he has to break them.
Or it may just be that there's nothing there, and this is the chance that Mueller has to take, in order to satisfy himself completely. But there's nothing to the collusion thing.
But one way or another, this is a very heavy-handed investigation. And to my mind, looking at it, it's a very overcharged set of charges.
ANDREW: I'm not for a moment making -- I'm not for a moment making the case that Manafort is not guilty. Looks to me that he's probably guilty of some not insignificant --
GLENN: Yeah, I think he's a really -- I think he's a really, really bad guy, who knew exactly who he was in bed with, you know, over in -- in the Ukraine. And, you know, is a -- is a -- a knowing ally of Vladimir Putin, trying to grab Ukraine. I think he's a really bad guy.
ANDREW: Yeah, but, Glenn, I always -- maybe this is because of what I used to do for a living. I distinguish between icky national security problem and crime.
ANDREW: I have no doubt that Manafort was completely unsuited to be involved in a presidential campaign. And I've been upset as anyone about Trump's friendly blandishments back and forth with Putin's regime. But the question clinically for me, looking at the four corners of an indictment is, you know, how serious is this case? And it looks to me that it's overcharged.
GLENN: Okay. So what is the first charge? Conspiracy against the United States. That seems like, scary as hell.
ANDREW: Yes. Sounds terrible, doesn't it?
GLENN: It does.
ANDREW: When you look at it. Yeah, except it's the five-year catch-all federal conspiracy case, which always is conspiracy against the United States.
And what it really is, is --
GLENN: Fail --
ANDREW: 2012. You know, the failure to disclose the foreign bank accounts, is the main part of that. And the false statements.
GLENN: Wow. Because that just sounds like something you just do not -- you do not want to wake up on a Monday morning and hear those words.
ANDREW: You know, every caption in a criminal case says United States versus --
GLENN: Yeah, right.
ANDREW: -- the name of the person. And it's intimidated to be prosecuted and to be charged with things like conspiracy against the United States. You were good enough to mention my Blind Sheikh prosecution. Judge Mukasey, who later became the attorney general, made us call that case -- we originally called it United States versus Rockmond (phonetic). And he made us call it United States versus Abdul Rockmond (phonetic). Who, as our Arabic-speaking defendants explained that Abdul Rockmond meant soldier of God. Whereas, Rockmond meant God. So our original indictment said United States versus God. So...
GLENN: Yeah, that's probably something we shouldn't file.
ANDREW: Yeah. I agree to make that adjustment.
GLENN: So can you hang on just a second, Andrew?
ANDREW: Yeah, sure.
GLENN: Because I want to now go to, all right. So if you are -- if you're Paul Manafort, do you just say, I'm sitting tight? Or do they have enough screws to put to you that you're starting to think, if -- if you had anything to offer, you might offer. And what are you thinking in the White House? And how does -- how does Donald Trump send a message without hurting himself? We'll get to that here in a second.
GLENN: Andrew McCarthy is joining us. Let me go to two places with you: First, back to Manafort. Manafort reportedly sent an email to Dara Poska (phonetic), asking if he would like private briefings on the campaign, which is, you know, kind of unusual. And then we also have papa dop, like I say, who apparently already pled guilty and swore out an affidavit. And, Stu, just read the first part of that.
STU: Well, foreign -- he was a foreign adviser. Or foreign policy adviser for the president's campaign. One of the big parts of this is, on or about April 26 -- this is about a month after the hack happened with Podesta. This guy, Papadopoulos, met with a professor. The professor told the defendant, Papadopoulos, that on a trip, he learned that the Russians had obtained dirt on then-candidate Clinton. They told them that the Russians have dirt on her. The Russians had emails of Clinton. They have thousands of email, indicating that potentially they knew about this Podesta hack in April of 2016.
And that is something that he has admitted to.
GLENN: Yeah. And that they were told that it was the Russians that did it. Is that bad?
ANDREW: Yeah. I think -- all of this is bad. Whether it's criminal is another matter. Obviously, if there was something criminal about it, they would have charged him with something other than a false statement. Because from a prosecutor's standpoint, there's nothing better in terms of establishing the crime that you're really trying to prove, than to get a cooperating witness to plead guilty to that crime, because that establishes that it happened.
They obviously didn't think they --
GLENN: Had a crime.
ANDREW: So they -- they got them to admit to false statements. And, you know, look this goes to something that has been a problem with this whole collusion thing from the beginning. Collusion with the Russians would be a terrible thing, not just with politics, but in terms of national security. It's the kind of thing that the Framers put impeachment in there for. And it's the reason why impeachment doesn't necessarily require a violation of the penal law.
GLENN: Do you believe that there is any collusion? That this is any indication that there may be collusion?
ANDREW: Well, I've always thought -- Glenn, you and I are colluding by having this conversation.
ANDREW: And collusion has got a dark connotation to it. But in the criminal law, we talk about conspiracy. Because that means you have to specifically violate a criminal statute, that we agree to do that. That's -- that's just collusion. That's something that you can actually work with as a prosecutor.
ANDREW: So I think the reason that they talk collusion, you know, from one side, it's that they don't have a crime and they're trying to divert attention from the fact that they don't have it. But on the other side, collusion with Russia would be bad, even if it couldn't be prosecuted.
GLENN: So you're Donald Trump today. How are you feeling? What are you saying to him? You're walking in and you're saying to him, "Don't worry." Or, Mr. President, what are you thinking?
ANDREW: Well, I'm thinking that I'm not surprised by this because I had to know something like this was coming back in July, when they handled the search warrant on the guy's house the way they did. But I'm thinking, in terms of politics, which would be his major concern right now, he's been told by Comey apparently on repeated occasions that he personally is not a suspect. And now finally, there are charges for Mueller, and they don't have anything to do with the 2016 campaign.
So if I'm the president today, you know, I'm obviously not happy to see Manafort get charged, but if I'm just thinking about Donald Trump, which I think is what Donald Trump mainly thinks about, I'm thinking this is a pretty good day.
GLENN: And are you -- as the president, are you worried that Manafort, you know, could say something, even if it wasn't true, that they could flip him? How do you deal with Manafort?
ANDREW: I'm not more worried about that, than I was yesterday.
GLENN: Okay. All right.
ANDREW: I think that's been out there all this time. I'm less worried about it, after reading what Mueller has done.
You know, if there was some allusion to 2016 in here, that would be alarming. But I take comfort from the fact that this is all Ukrainian stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the 2016 campaign.
GLENN: I hate to ask you this: But can I hold you for just a few more minutes? I want to ask you your thoughts on the Fusion GPS and Uranium One. Because I think that needs to be looked at as well.
ANDREW: Yeah, sure.
GLENN: And we need to pop the hood on that. But they say the same thing: Is there any crime there? Back to it in a sec.
GLENN: Andrew McCarthy, contributing editor of the National Review. And he is -- he's also a guy who, you know, was the former assistant US attorney for the southern district of New York that led the charge on the first World Trade Center bombing and is a trusted friend of the program.
So, Andrew, I want to ask you the -- the right is -- I'm sorry, the left is dismissing Fusion GPS and Uranium One. And both of those seem to be really big deals. At least to me.
And nobody -- nobody in the news media seems to really care.
ANDREW: Yeah, I think they're very big deals, Glenn. Not only on their own merit, but particularly framed by the debate that we've been having for the last year. So, for example, just to take Fusion GPS, if you strip out the middle men, that is the law firm that the Clinton campaign and DNC-hired, and Steele, who was the guy who supposedly has these connections. Which, if you read his dossier, he says they are high-level Kremlin-connected people. What they basically did was get information from Kremlin-connected officials, which would be damaging to the Trump campaign.
GLENN: Right. There's no difference -- there's no difference, in my mind, between the Trump meeting, which I think was wrong, and the Fusion GPS, with an exception of, that information was laundered. But it's exactly the same. And they knew it.
ANDREW: Yeah, no, that's exactly right. And it goes to definitely -- you know, we keep hitting the same themes. But these things may not be illegal. But they're very unsavory. It may not be illegal to get damaging information about your campaign opponents from a bio-regime, but it's a terrible thing to do. And it's terrible for American politics.
GLENN: So what about the -- what about Uranium One? I am concerned that Uranium One, that the president issued a gag order on a guy who was saying all kinds of stuff about how the Russians were involved and bribing all kinds of people.
ANDREW: Yeah, I'm very -- I'm really concerned about this nondisclosure agreement. I'm glad that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to lift it. I must say, when I was a prosecutor, I was a prosecutor, Glenn, for almost 20 years. I never used one. We always told people that, your non-disclosure agreements are not effective against us. We can still put you in the grand jury. We can still put you on the witness stand. So for the government to tell that to people, and at the same time, use these kinds of agreements, seems inappropriate to me.
But the thing I think is really alarming is not only now that -- we already knew that when this transmission of uranium assets to what essentially is Russia. This conglomerate Rosatom is the Kremlin, for all intents and purposes. They were buying off American officials at the time that was going on.
ANDREW: Now we know that they knew they had an extortion and racketeering case on the American subsidiary of Rosatom at the very time that this was under consideration. And they elected not to bring the case, because if they had brought the case, that would have blown the transactions to smithereens. We never would have gone forward.
GLENN: Do you believe the FBI now? I mean, the FBI has been using -- they used this to get a FISA court to spy on Donald Trump. They knew. They had to have known.
ANDREW: Well, I think -- we have to find out all the facts. And I know -- I'm entitled to be an apologist for the FBI because I work for them or with them for a long time. And it's a big institution that's got good and bad, just like any other institution.
GLENN: Yeah, everything else.
ANDREW: But, look, if they used -- if they wrapped up the dossier and gave it to the FISA court, that would be a big problem.
If they mined allegations out of the dossier and then went and independently corroborated them and used what they had corroborated to get a FISA warrant, I don't have a problem with that. If they had good-faith reason to think that there was connection between the Russian regime and the Trump campaign -- not, you know, as a pretext for political spying, but a good-faith reason to believe that was going on, it would be irresponsible to not investigate it.
GLENN: Andy, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
STU: Andrew McCarthy from National Review. He's at AndrewCMcCarthy.com. And on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy.