- Paul Manafort’s decision to plead guilty and flip in the Russia investigation is the single-biggest victory for the special counsel Robert Mueller, so far.
- Before agreeing to a plea deal with Manafort, prosecutors likely sat down with him or his attorney for a proffer session, during which a defendant has to answer several key questions from investigators about his own case or any criminal activity he may have witnessed.
- “This means Mueller’s team feels that what Manafort has to offer is not just credible, but important,” said one Justice Department veteran.
- Manafort’s decision to flip against President Trump likely blindsided his legal team, which did not learn of his cooperation deal until it was announced in court Friday.
Paul Manafort was the chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign when he offered a Russian oligarch “private briefings” on Trump’s bid.
He was spearheading the campaign when WikiLeaks began dumping thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been stolen by Russian operatives.
Perhaps most importantly, he was one of three top Trump campaign officials to attend a meeting with two Russian lobbyists offering kompromat on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the height of the campaign.
On Friday, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and obstruction, and Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor working for the special counsel Robert Mueller told a federal judge that Manafort had flipped and would be cooperating “in any and all matter as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant,” including “testifying fully, completely” before a grand jury.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Weissmann in the past, didn’t mince words when he reacted to the development.
“Manafort’s cooperation is the single most important advancement for the Mueller probe,” he said. “He is the single most important witness thus far, because his position was such that he can shed light on the most critical question of what the president knew, and when he knew it.”
‘This is a huge get for Mueller’s team’
Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor, and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice after the existence of the investigation became public knowledge last year.
News of Manafort’s deal with Mueller came after intense speculation over whether the former Trump campaign chairman would plead guilty or go to trial.
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Politico earlier this week that Manafort was in a joint defense agreement with the president, and that Trump’s team was not worried about Manafort flipping.
He told BuzzFeed early Friday, less than two hours before Manafort’s plea hearing, that Manafort had not withdrawn from the agreement, in what appeared to be an indication that even if Manafort entered a guilty plea, he would not be cooperating against Trump.
For that reason, Weissmann’s announcement that Manafort had flipped likely “blindsided” the president’s legal team, Cotter said.
But Elie Honig, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted hundreds of organized crime cases, said it’s common in high-profile cases for a cooperator to stay silent about their agreement with the prosecution until the last minute.
“Joint defense agreements are very common in mob cases,” he said. “And when you’re working to flip someone in a joint defense agreement, they’d have to keep it a secret. The last people you’d tell are the other people in the agreement because they could threaten you, try to dissuade you, or do other things to derail you.”
What Manafort knows is important for several threads of the Russia investigation, like the hack of the DNC and any communication between Trump campaign members and Russian interests. But the biggest value he brings to Mueller is the ability to shed light on the controversial June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lobbyists.
Manafort attended the meeting along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, and it eventually emerged that, contrary to Trump Jr.’s initial statements, the meeting was pitched as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Trump’s candidacy.
It is a federal crime to accept something of value from a foreign government in connection to an American election, and legal experts have suggested that if Trump campaign officials took the meeting to get kompromat on Clinton, it could place them in serious legal jeopardy.
“Manafort has knowledge of that meeting because he was there, there’s no speculation on that,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department. “He knows what it was for, what happened at the meeting, and he may even know about the cover-up afterward. This is a huge get for Mueller’s team.”
‘It’s getting very lonely on Trump Island’
After Manafort’s plea deal was announced, both Giuliani and the White House released statements downplaying its significance.
“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Giuliani said in a statement to Business Insider. “The reason: the President did nothing wrong.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders struck a similar chord.
“This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign,” she said in a statement. “It is totally unrelated.”
While the charges to which Manafort pleaded are unrelated to Trump, legal experts say Manafort will tell Mueller a lot more than just information about what was in the indictments against him.
“Sanders’ statement is just false,” Cramer said. “Some things are gray. This is really black and white. The Russia meeting was obviously during the campaign, the DNC hack was obviously during the campaign, as were many other events Manafort may know about.”
“The court of public opinion is one thing; the legal system doesn’t care about the spin the White House is putting on this,” he added.
Manafort’s cooperation, he said, is a massive victory for the special counsel, because “the way it works with federal cooperation is it’s all or nothing.”
“The cooperator doesn’t just talk about select people or categories, with the exception of close family members at times,” he said. “They have to talk about everything they’ve ever done, all the criminal activity they knew about, every crime they’ve committed.”
Before striking a plea deal with a defendant, prosecutors sit down with them or their attorney for what’s known as a proffer session, which involves answering any questions from investigators, including those about their own case and other possible criminal activity they may have witnessed.
Even if Mueller’s team didn’t have the chance to sit down for a full proffer session with Manafort, experts said he almost certainly knew the broad strokes of what the former Trump campaign chairman had to offer.
Ultimately, prosecutors only agree to a cooperation deal with a defendant if the defendant gives them information that can be confirmed by other witnesses and information investigators have gathered.
Cotter, who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino crime family boss John Gotti after flipping his right-hand man, Salvatore “Sammy the bull” Gravano, said that was the most significant takeaway for him.
“This means Mueller’s team feels that what Manafort has to offer is not just credible, but important,” he said. “That suggests that what Manafort knows is really critical evidence about that Trump Tower meeting, who knew about it and when, and what other contacts were there between the campaign and people around Trump.”
The bottom line? Every day, Cotter said, there are one or two fewer people the president can rely on.
“It’s getting very lonely on Trump Island.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.