Editors’ Note: The Dominican Beat reporters worked quickly to present important elements regarding the historic news about the Robert Mueller federal investigation into Russian meddling with the US election. Criminal indictments for a former and a current official in President Trump’s administration have been handed down as of press time. We also looked at the Russian creation of phony Black activist Facebook accounts, and how these stories are being covered by media.
12 Counts Against Manafort and Gates
By Ashley Moreda
Nearly a year after President Trump was sworn into office, Russia’s possible involvement into his campaign has been speculated until October 27th, 2017, when a Criminal Complaint was filed against former campaign aids, Paul J. Manafort Jr. and Richard W. Gates III.
Both lobbyists plead not-guilty to the indictment that holds 12 counts including:
- Conspiracy Against the United States
- Conspiracy to Launder Money
- Failure to File Reports Of Foreign Bank And Financial Accounts for Calendar Years 2011-2014
- Failure to File Reports Of Foreign Bank And Financial Accounts for Calendar Years 2011-2013
- Unregistered Agent Of A Foreign Principal
- False and Misleading FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) Statements
- False Statements
The indictment goes into detail for each count as to how Manafort and Gates committed these criminal acts. CBS reported, “Both of them directed a campaign to lobby U.S. officials on behalf of the Ukrainian government, and they broke the law by not reporting their work and fees to the U.S...”
Leigh Anderson discusses what an indictment is in her article with Matt Kaiser, “a former federal public defender..” He stated, “‘The Constitution requires that if anyone is to be charged with a felony in federal court, they must be charged by a grand jury. That means that members of the community come together to hear evidence and see if there is probable cause that the person committed the charges presented to them. The person is still presumed not guilty. The indictment is the formal charging document in which the government sets out the charges and starts the process of the criminal case.’”
An intricate and complex issue, Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Election is still being investigated and more than likely will produce interesting findings in the years to come.
Trump Administration Falling Apart? Who is Paul Manafort?
By Forrest Hunt
Many have questioned how President Trump got elected to become the 45th President of the United States. Since the election, accusations have been made about our election being influenced by the Russians. After further investigation, much has come out in the last 24 hours.
On October 27th, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was charged with a 12-count indictment from by the FBI. According to The Hill, “the charges against Manafort include conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, false statements, and failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.” The foreign bank accounts that Manafort’s money were in, were Russian bank accounts. Could Manafort have promised the Russians the lifting of sanctions? President Trump pushed Manafort out of his campaign quickly, three months before election day. President Trump must have gotten what he wanted from Russia, or did he? These charges were the first within the investigation of Robert Mueller, influencing the United States 2016 election.
After pleading not guilty on Monday, Paul Manafort turned himself in to the authorities and the government posted his bail at $10 million. Paul Manafort used these foreign bank accounts to purchase multi-million dollar homes, antiques, millions of dollars worth of home renovations, luxury cars, and millions of dollars worth of clothing. According to The Washington Post Manafort could face up to 80 years in prison.
Who Is George Papadopoulos and What Part Did He Play in the Russian Collusion?
By Cheyenne Sykes
In light of the indictments made against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates earlier this week, Vox reporter Andrew Prokop reported that Robert Mueller, the lead investigator in the case, unsealed a document, which revealed that President Trump’s former foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, pled guilty to lying to federal agents about his contact with the Russians during the 2016 election season.
In July of this year, Papadopoulos was arrested while he was getting off a flight at Dulles International Airport. The LA Times reported that one contact, only identified as “The Professor,” claimed to have “thousands of emails” about Hillary Clinton, while another stated, “As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump.” The Atlantic also reported, “On March 31, 2016, Papadopoulos attended a Trump campaign meeting in which he claimed he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.”
Who is Christopher Steele and Why Does He Matter in the Russian Investigation ?
By Brandon Cadiz
Christopher Steele’s firm, Fusion GPS was hired by Donald Trump’s campaign, yet at the same time was also hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. These commissioned reports from Steele calls into question whether this could lead to a new election. Christopher Steele is a former British intelligence officer of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom. Christopher Steele is known as the “Trump Dossier” for his involvement in revealing Trump and his possible connections to Russia. Steele initially wrote a report for Buzzfeed 10 days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. At the time Steele’s name was anonymous and not linked to the report initially. The report talked about possible dirt on President Donald Trump: allegations that he has worked with Russia for several years. In a NY Times article, it is confirmed that the report consisted of, “ … memos [that] allege a multifaceted conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to help Mr. Trump defeat Mrs. Clinton. The memos also detail unsubstantiated accounts of encounters between Mr. Trump and Russian prostitutes, and real estate deals that were intended as bribes, among other claims about Mr. Trump’s businesses.” The report can be read here.
Russians Linked to Fake Black Activist Accounts
By Isabel Paner
Fake Black activist accounts under the handle Blacktivist have been linked to the Russian government as part of their attempt to amplify racial tensions in the U.S. and influence the 2016 election. The Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly posted content aimed to incite outrage and divide Americans, including videos of police brutality against African-Americans.
"We live under a system of racism and police are directly letting us know how they feel and where we stand,” read the caption underneath a video posted by their Facebook account addressing an incident in July where a police dog was seen biting an African-American man in handcuffs.
The fake Russian Blacktivist Facebook account amassed 360,000 likes, which was more than the verified Black Lives Matter account, which had 301,000 likes. According to CNN, “The page also publicized at least seven rallies and demonstrations around the country in 2016.” These events included the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party March and a march commemorating the death of Freddie Gray.
"Black people should wake up as soon as possible," posted the Twitter account.
"Black families are divided and destroyed by mass incarceration and death of black men," another tweet read.
But despite the Blacktivist accounts quickly gathering a following, others were suspicious of the pages that had popped up out of nowhere without an identity behind who ran it. The Guardian UK reported that Heber Brown III, a pastor, community organizer, and activist from Baltimore, “thought it was just another person who wanted to take advantage of the misery and pain of black people in Baltimore.” Another activist, Jamye Wooten, thought it might have been undercover police spying on protesters.
Neither had any idea it would actually be the Russian government.
The passionate rhetoric posted by these Blacktivist accounts seemed to fool the public, promoting Black Lives Matter protests and interacting with activists online in a realistic way. After contacting the account, Wooten said the page “did a good job of creating an online narrative.”
In another exchange between Brown and the Blacktivist Facebook account, Brown criticized the imposter for organizing a rally without starting a conversation and listening to other activists first. The account’s response is seemingly sympathetic and apologetic.
Experts in Russian History and US Civil Rights said that even though Black Lives Matter did not play a role in the US election and the Blacktivist accounts were not directly linked to it either, Russia still capitalized on existing racial tensions in the US by using the fake accounts to create distrust and exacerbate divisive attitudes.
“I found it very disturbing that there was this orchestrated, well-funded attempt to exploit our divisions,” said Antonio French, an activist and Black Lives Matter supporter from Ferguson.
For activists, the propaganda is frustrating and shifts the attention from systemic racism in the U.S. “Our biggest concern is our local government, how black lives are being treated in America, not so much Russia’s possible interference,” said Wooten. “That’s not anywhere near the top of our list of concerns.”
How the Public/Media Are Responding to Trump Campaign Head Indictment
By Madeleine Sabin
With everything going on around the Trump campaign manager indictment, it’s hard to decipher what is really going on. So how is the media responding and covering all of it? How are some important political heads responding? Just to sum up the event, on Monday Donald Trump's campaign manager surrendered himself to the FBI. Some of the charges include among others: involve money-laundering, tax evasion, illegal lobbying, and lying. These charges could mean up to twenty years in Federal prison. One Fox news staffer was so embarrassed by the network’s coverage that they said they wanted to quit. Several quotes from Trump show that his defense on the matter is that it is “old news,” and a long time favorite, “fake news.”
A direct tweet from the POTUS himself
The New York Times has covered everything that Manafort did leading up to the admittance and the actual indictment. A small excerpt from the indictment:
Why is Russia for Trump?
By Caitlyn Dang
Russia’s alleged involvement in the Trump administration is under extreme scrutiny by the US government and there are numerous reasons why Vladimir Putin might want to support Trump’s presidency. A US News article titled “Why Did Putin Want Trump to Win” lists several possible reasons for being involved in the 2016 election. Two of the most interesting theories involve Trump’s personal relations in Russia and Russia’s own projection of the effect of Trump’s presidency on America as a whole.
One of the most highly controversial rumors claims to involve President Trump taking part in illicit and lude interaction with Russian prostitutes. “According to one version, told by a high-ranking Obama administration diplomat, Russian intelligence services, acting on Trump’s well-known obsession with sex, had arranged an evening for him with a bevy of hookers, with hidden cameras and microphones recording all the action.” This story, written in a Newsweek article, claims that “Trump had somehow engaged in ‘golden showers,’ sex acts involving urine.” Despite how outrageous this claim may sound, it is still very characteristic of Trump’s history with how he perceives and interacts with women. There are concerns that might Russia use this information to blackmail President Trump into working with them.
Another obscure, yet compelling theory is the “Chaos Theory,” described in Vanity Fair. This theory wraps around the idea that Trump taking office would divide the U.S. population and create chaos that would weaken our government's stability. As time passes, this idea becomes less and less farfetched. Just take a look around us. The amount of violent discrimination in America seems to have skyrocketed since Trump’s 2016 election.
Bay Area Representative’s Commentary on the Allegations
By Lily Batchelor
U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (D) who serves California’s 2nd Congressional District, and our area here at Dominican, has yet to release a statement about the implications of Russia’s alleged influence in the 2016 election, however, according to the Congressman’s communication director, Huffman is a, “strong supporter of the investigation and maintaining its integrity.”
California State Assemblyman Marc Levine (D) representing the North San Francisco Bay Area, has yet to comment on the allegations. The Dominican Beat is in contact with his Sacramento Office and is awaiting a statement on the issue.
As of press time today October 31st, very few politicians have released statements or comments concerning the implications of the investigation.