The Russia probe, as led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, just keeps going and going, with a presidential interview remaining, apparently, in Mueller’s sights throughout the latest rounds of the ordeal. He has already brought charges against a number of former Trump associates, including just one who has refused to cooperate at this point — former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
As time goes on, the walls keep closing in around Manafort. This Friday, he has now been hit with new charges, and another person has been roped in to — Konstantin Kilimnik, who has worked with Manafort and Rick Gates in the past. (Gates was hit with similar original money laundering charges to those faced by Manafort and earlier this year he flipped.)
Kilimnik (and Manafort) have been newly charged this week with obstruction of justice after there had been an effort revealed recently by prosecutors to corrupt witness testimony in the case against Manafort. Kilimnik is from Ukraine and speaks Russian; he’s cooperated with Manafort both in his work for the now ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and with Russian oligarch and member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s circles Oleg Deripaska. Where Kilimnik, who has been connected to Russian intelligence, actually is as of Friday is unknown, according to Bloomberg.
His and Manafort’s obstruction effort was revealed after Mueller’s team, according to reports, began asking witnesses to hand in their phones so that encrypted messaging apps could be checked, although the exact origin of the special counsel’s knowledge about the attempted obstruction has not been touted.
Even still, it’s clear that they’re not hesitating to bring corrupt individuals to justice as a part of their investigative efforts. A notable issue here is the fact that the president himself has been accused of obstruction of justice in the past in connection to the Mueller probe, so there’s now an actual set of charges to point to as a verification of the seriousness with which Mueller will be approaching any such allegations.
Throughout the ordeal of the Russia investigation, Trump has maintained that there’s nothing to any of it, which is the line that he’s held to so passionately so as to spark some of the actions considered by many to be obstruction of justice. Along those lines, he went so far as to fire the FBI director and then-leader of the Russia investigation at one point, and he has maintained that the investigation in essentially all its forms is a “witch hunt.”
Despite his most passionate assertions to the contrary, however, the threat from Russian interference in United States elections and possible cooperation with his team is very real.
U.S. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) commented on Twitter:
@realDonaldTrump: The indictment by American prosecutors of Konstantin Kilimnik, who is tied to Russian intelligence, confirms again that Russia is not our ally and Putin is not your friend. Have a good G-7 Summit.’
Dear @realDonaldTrump: The indictment by American prosecutors of Konstantin Kilimnik, who is tied to Russian intelligence, confirms again that Russia is not our ally and Putin is not your friend.
Have a good G-7 Summit. https://t.co/bChda8TkUa
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 8, 2018
Trump has suggested that he would be open to Russia rejoining the G7 group of world leaders, despite the fact that the aggression that prompted them being kicked out has not ended. He’s at the annual G7 summit this week.
How the latest developments in the Russia investigation play into the broader picture of both the probe and the United States’ relationship to Russia remains to be seen.
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