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Mueller, Papadopoulos, Manafort, Collusion, Impeachment: A Breakdown of the Buzzwords

November 3rd, 2017 by David Minces

While the current administration’s year has been turbulent to put it lightly, the last week has been arguably the most eventful to date. While we are used to cabinet members leaving and appointments changing nearly daily, this week the stakes were driven up as the heat increased on the investigation into President Trump’s Campaign and their Russian ties.

Robert Mueller PC- National ReviewLawyer Robert Mueller is assigned to oversee the investigation of the claims. PC: National Review.

Unfortunately, many Americans are wondering what exactly this investigation means legally and whether it will impact who leads our country. There are a lot of sources and information available, but we wanted to break down the players, the game, and the potential legal implications, in an honest, simple, and unbiased way.

Who is who?

National Security Team Meeting PC - Donald Trump Instagram'Papadopoulos, President Trump, and other Campaign officials are pictured in this 2016 post on President Trump’s Instagram.

The White House has become a revolving door of characters and sometimes that makes keeping up with who is in power a bit of a full-time job for the public. To simplify things, the table below provides some detail on the important profiles of the key figures in the investigation:

Name Position Relevant time involved
George Papadopoulos Foreign Policy Advisor to Trump Campaign March 2016
James Comey Former Director of the FBI July 10, 2015-May 9, 2017
Carter Page Trump Campaign Advisor 2016
Robert Mueller Special Counsel (FBI) May 2017- Present
Paul Manafort Campaign Manager for Trump Campaign June – August 2016
“The Professor” Joseph Mifsud Connection between Papadopoulos and Russia March 2016 – May 2016
Sam Clovis Co-chair of Trump Campaign, former nominee for Under Secretary of Agriculture August 2015 – November 2, 2017
Donald Trump Jr. Campaign Advisor to Trump Campaign 2016 – Present
President Trump President of the United States June 2015 – Present
Richard Gates Consultant to Trump Campaign and business associate of Paul Manafort June 2016 – August 2016

What are the key events?

While the facts are still being parsed out and some stories and pleas are continually changing, there are a few well-established events that have been confirmed by Mueller’s investigative team. The main events are as follows:

Time Players Event
2006-2016 Manafort and Gates 12-counts of money laundering through U.S. and foreign outlets.
March 2016 Papadopoulos Becomes foreign policy advisor to Trump Campaign.
March 6, 2016 Clovis and Papadopoulos Clovis allegedly tells Papadopoulos that Russian relations with the U.S. is a key foreign policy concern.
March 14, 2016 Papadopoulos and “The Professor” Joseph Mifsud Papadopoulos meets with Mifsud in Italy. It is said that during this meeting Mifsud “claimed to have substantial connections with Russian government officials.” Papadopoulos and Mifsud continue communications to arrange a meeting with Russian officials.
March 19, 2016 The GRU (Russian intelligence) John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman, received a phising email that resulted in the theft of thousands of emails. It is later concluded that the GRU, a Russian intelligence agency, was responsible for the hacking.
March 24, 2016 Papadopoulos and Mifsud Papadopoulos and Mifsud meet in London with a female Russian national who Mifsud claimed to be “a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Papadopoulos later emailed several Campaign officials stating that the woman was Putin’s niece and they discussed arranging a meeting between the Campaign and Russian leadership “to discuss US-Russian ties under President Trump.”

March 31, 2016 Papadopoulos, President Trump, various Campaign Advisors President Trump holds a national security meeting. Papadopoulos said that he introduced himself to the team and discussed his Russian connections and his ability to arrange a meeting between President Trump and President Putin.
April 18 and 25, 2016 Papadopoulos Papadopoulos sends several emails, one to an unnamed person in Moscow (who he later had several Skype conversations with), and another to an unnamed Senior Policy Advisor to the Trump Campaign to discuss the invitation for President Trump to meet with President Putin. Papadopoulos says “The advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ‘neutral’ cities.”
April 26, 2016 Papadopoulos and Mifsud Papadopoulos and Mifsud meet in London. Mifsud discloses that he had recently went to Moscow and that high-level government officials in Russia noted that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Mifsud described the “dirt” as “thousands of emails.”
April 27, 2016 President Trump President Trump gives a foreign policy speech in D.C. where he emphasizes his willingness to work with Russia.
June 3, 2016 Trump Jr. Rob Goldstone, a music promoter, and Donald Trump Jr. email about arranging a meeting with a Russian lawyer to discuss “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Trump Jr. says “…I love it.”
June 9, 2016 Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort A meeting between Trump Campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya takes place in Trump Tower. Veselnitskaya turns the conversation to other policy concerns and away from Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. later described the encounter as “literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
June 14, 2016 Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear (Russian hackers) The DNC’s computer network is breached by two separate Russian hackers.
July 5, 2016 James Comey Director Comey recommends no charges be pressed against Hillary Clinton for her email handling.
July 7, 2016 Carter Page Page gives a pro-Russia speech in Moscow.
July 27, 2016 President Trump President Trump states “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” at a news conference.
August 15, 2016 Papadopoulos and unnamed Foreign Policy Campaign Advisor (suspected to be Clovis) In regards to an “off the record” trip to Moscow, an Advisor tells Papadopoulos to “make the trip, if it is feasible.”
August 19, 2016 Manafort Manafort resigns from the Campaign after it is reported that he received payments for work he did for Russian in Ukraine.
January 27, 2017 Papadopoulos The FBI interviews Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos now states that he “made material false statements and material omissions,” during this interview.
May 9, 2017 Comey and President Trump President Trump dismisses Comey in the midst of his investigation into the Campaign’s Russian ties.
May 16, 2017 Comey and President Trump Comey releases a memo written on February of 2017 recounting a private meeting with President Trump, where he was asked to close the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
May 17, 2017 Mueller Appointed as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation following Comey’s dismissal.
October 5, 2017 Papadopoulos Pleads guilty for his false statements made to FBI agents earlier this year.

What does this mean for the White House?

As of right now, Mueller’s investigation continues, and most experts speculate it will only get more eventful as time progresses and more documents are uncovered. The key word being used by media sources and the President himself is “collusion”. Collusion alone is not a crime. Collusion could merely mean that President Trump, or his team, engaged in a cooperative effort with the Russian government, or agents, to undermine Hillary Clinton and boost President Trump’s likelihood of success. Legally, collusion does not have any real meaning outside of antitrust law, which does not apply here. At this point Mueller’s investigation would need to uncover that the “collusion” included aiding Russia in committing a crime, concealing a crime, or working with them to commit a crime. Additionally, false and misleading statements can be crimes. If, like Papadopoulos, other Campaign officials have lied during federal investigations and those lies can be proven, that would be legally actionable.

Manafort and GatesManafort and Gates PC: Getty Images/New York Times

How this impacts our leadership at the moment is unknown. There are a few possibilities that are on the table. One possibility is jail time for those accused of criminal acts, like Papadopoulos. Another unique possibility is for President Trump to be impeached.

Impeachment takes quite a bit of effort and requires a showing that the President committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Impeachment possibility extends to all civil officers of government, not only the President. It should be noted that impeachment is not a conviction of a crime, and an official can serve in office until a conviction is issued.

Johnson Impeachment TicketAn impeachment stamp from the Johnson era.

No President to date has been removed from office by conviction and only two have ever been impeached. All things considered, it is unlikely that the investigation would result in President Trump being formally removed from office. It is more likely that President Trump could be impeached if more evidence is uncovered and there is enough support in the House of Representatives to reach a majority. To convict an official the impeachment charges must be tried by the Senate and garner a two-thirds majority vote.

While the players, facts, and procedures can be confusing and frustrating, at the very least, Americans are getting a very solid recap of the Constitution through this investigation. While Constitutional law is not our area of expertise, we will continue to monitor relevant legal events and provide you with updates. As always, if it happens at work, we can help.

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