Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Earlier today, the Department of Justice announced the issuance of an updated United States Attorneys' Manual. The new manual, now called the Justice Manual, represents the "first comprehensive review and overhaul of the Manual in more than 20 years." From the DOJ press release:
“This was truly a Department-wide effort, involving hundreds of employees collaborating from many different Department components,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “To mark this significant undertaking, and to emphasize that the Manual applies beyond the United States Attorneys’ Offices, we have renamed it the Justice Manual. Though the name has changed, the Manual will continue as a valuable means of improving efficiency, promoting consistency, and ensuring that applicable Department policies remain readily available to all employees as they carry out the Department’s vital mission.”
By 2017, many provisions of the Manual no longer reflected current law and Department practice. This diminished the Manual’s effectiveness as an internal Department resource, and reduced its value as a source of transparency and accountability for the public. To bring the Manual up to date, employees from around the country, primarily career attorneys, undertook a yearlong, top-to-bottom review. The Department’s goals were to identify redundancies, clarify ambiguities, eliminate surplus language, and update the Manual to reflect current law and practice.
Some specific changes include expanding the Principles of Federal Prosecution to incorporate current charging and sentencing policies, and adding new policies on religious liberty litigation, third-party settlement payments, and disclosure of foreign influence operations.
The Justice Manual may be accessed here.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
As noted here, the Special Counsel's Office filed an information, which immediately indicated that either the accused waived a Grand Jury Indictment or an Agreement had been reached (which typically includes the waiving of the indictment). In this case it was the latter, as seen in the entering of a plea agreement (see here) by Paul Manafort. The plea is to two counts of a sec. 371 conspiracy, with the first count having multiple objects of the conspiracy (money laundering, tax fraud, false statements, etc.) and the second count being limited to a conspiracy to obstruct justice under sec. 1512. Accompanying the plea we find the Statement of the Offense (here) and Exhibits (here). So here are some thoughts on the plea:
- The government and defense used specific objects of the conspiracy as opposed to just saying it is a conspiracy to the defraud the government, although on afterthought it does appear to be a conspiracy to defraud. It provides a roadmap to a vast array of alleged underlying criminal conduct.
- The Agreement makes clear that no additional charges will be brought against Manafort for his "disclosed participation in criminal activity including money laundering, false statements, personal and corporate tax and FBAR offenses, bank fraud, Foreign Agents Registration Act violations for his work in the Ukraine, and obstruction of justice."
- The Advisory Guidelines range is 210-262 months imprisonment, but each side left some room for argument here. And sentencing in this DC case, as well as the prior Virginia case will be delayed pending Manafort's cooperation. But of key importance is that the government will file a 5K1.1 if Manafort provides substantial assistance, which could bring down his sentence.
- Cooperation is a component of the agreement, including providing testimony in court proceedings. But the essence of that cooperation is obviously omitted here.
- The Plea contains the typical trial, appellate, and post-appellate waivers often found in plea agreements. But, noteworthy, is that Manafort is waiving his right to counsel during his cooperation with the government. This will save him attorney fees, but it also will mean that anything he says will be between him and the government.
- The forfeiture of both money and property is significant, and this plays well against any claims that this special counsel investigation was overly costly. Special Counsel Mueller is doing a good job here at trying to get money to cover the costs of this investigation.
And some thoughts on the Statement of the Offenses and Other Acts -
- It looks like the theme is how to disseminate misinformation. One has to wonder if this is a preview to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
- Several individuals and companies are named only by letter in the Statement (A, B, D1, and D2) - did they previously provide information to the Special Counsel or have we now moved closer to these dominos. And if there are future cases here, will the Special Counsel's office handle these or refer them to other US Attorneys. I hope someone is watching the statute of limitations here.
- #35 is intriguing - Manafort initially told the DOJ "that he [did] not [have] relevant documents." But the statement here is that Manafort did in fact have "numerous incriminating documents in his possession, ..." The implication is clear that the government now has these documents. So, what other documents did Manafort have?
General Thoughts -
- Mueller's team plays a tough game as so many have folded to protect their family, or for the sake of their family.
- The Plea, the Statement and the Accompanying Exhibits make one wonder how pervasive phony media campaigns, such as this, have occurred.
- What is really important is not what is here in these documents, but rather what is not here. Mueller has been careful not to show his hand as he climbs the ladder of indictments and pleas that have individuals charged and convicted of federal crimes. And he certainly has done an impressive job in accumulating these. And from each plea he obtains additional evidence that implicates the next person.
- So who will be the next domino?
See also, Jack Townsend, Federal Tax Crimes - here.
Friday, September 14, 2018