Charges of bank fraud and tax evasion have been floating around for some time against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, but the Department of Justice passed on his prosecution a few years ago, National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy noted Tuesday.
"What happened here is this involves political consulting work that Manafort and other people, his partner Richard Gates who pleaded guilty in [Robert] Mueller's investigation, this is conduct they were involved in going back to around 2004 and forward to about 2014, and a little bit beyond," McCarthy told Fox News' "America's Newsroom."
A jury has been seated in the federal trial for Manafort, who served briefly as Trump's campaign manager in 2016. The Trump administration has insisted that the charges against Manafort have nothing to do with the campaign.
"What the Justice Department has apparently — this comes out of Manafort's camp — what they have looked at is the question whether he ought to be prosecuted for failing to register as a foreign agent for the work he did for this Ukrainian political faction," said McCarthy.
"What they claim is they looked at that conduct, is that the Justice Department did and opted not to prosecute him. When Mueller came in, he revived that investigation."
Prosecutors claim Manafort collected more than $60 million from his consulting work in Ukraine but hid most of to avoid paying taxes. They will also argue that Manafort fraudulently obtained millions more through a series of bank loans, including some he obtained while working with the Trump campaign.
McCarthy said Tuesday that the charges likely were sought in order to obtain information about the Trump campaign.
"It is a common thing, even though it's not a pretty thing that prosecutors like to talk about, but it is a common thing for them to squeeze people for information to try to make a case on other people," said McCarthy.
The case has been called the first test of Mueller's investigation, but McCarthy said it's "really not."
"It's a test of whether he can get Manafort convicted of something, but it really tells us very little about the thing he is here to investigate," said McCarthy, and it begs the question of whether a special counsel was needed to investigate Russian meddling in the election.
"This really does not go to the reason the special counsel was appointed in the first place, which was a Justice Department conflict of interest, with respect to Russia's interference in the election, and any Trump campaign participation," said McCarthy.
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