Rutecki: Trump, Paul Manafort and corruption

Like most readers, I was shocked by the Wall Street Journal headline on Monday, Oct. 30: “Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Charged in Russia probe.” The article revealed something I never saw coming; Manafort is facing charges that he “laundered more than $18 million in funds from his work for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine through offshore accounts.”

The charges do not even end there. Manafort and his business associate, Richard Gates, face a total of twelve criminal counts. Perhaps the most stunning charge is one against Manafort and Gates: conspiracy against the United States. Other counts include the failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. As of Oct. 30, one former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian connections while Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty.  

Special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled these charges in connection with Russia’s influence in the 2016 election. His team, which includes 16 attorneys with expertise in fraud, corruption and national security concerns, is investigating the matter.    

Sadly, in my opinion, this corruption likely extends to the highest levels of government, including President Donald Trump. Although many of his campaign members’ alleged crimes occurred before their involvement on the campaign, I cannot fathom how Trump could be unaware of this level of fraud by his own campaign manager. The guilty plea of Papadopoulos certainly involved the campaign, since he made materially false statements to the FBI regarding his interactions with the Russian government.  

On Monday, Trump tried to distance himself from the probe, tweeting “…Also, there is no collusion.”  By tweeting, Trump tried to separate his campaign from any election-related wrongdoing.  Considering the evidence, I do not think anyone, including myself, believes that at this point.  

This scandal is worse than Watergate; there is no defense for the Trump campaign’s criminal actions.  My prediction: Trump will not escape this probe and will ultimately be impeached for it, as he should be if future evidence suggests he was aware of these activities.

The peaceful transfer of power has long been a hallmark of the American democracy.  Under this concept, a country’s leader relinquishes power to another leader with opposing views in a fair and just process.  When Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States in 1800, it marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in the U.S.  Our country has continued this trend for more than two centuries.  

But the issue is, if Donald Trump was aware of his campaign’s criminality, then the presidential transfer in 2016 could not have been peaceful.  The victim is the American people, including liberals and conservatives.              

I would not have voted for Donald Trump for president if I had known about the corruption of Manafort and his co-conspirators.  Sadly, I could not have voted for the Democratic candidate either because I also believe Hillary Clinton to be corrupt, even though she was not indicted for criminal charges.  

For instance, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Intelligence Committee recently announced a joint probe into governmental approval of a uranium sale with Russia that occurred between 2009 and 2013. This sale gave Russia a significant portion of the U.S. uranium supply, and lead to it purchasing a majority stake in the Uranium One mining company. Yet, at the same time, the uranium company’s chairman made four donations to Clinton’s family foundation, totaling $2.35 million. To quote Bernie Kropp from the film “The Incredibles,” “Coincidence? I think not!”.

The stunning allegations involving the Trump campaign raise an important truth about the nature of politics: No political party or politician is free of sin.  The takeaway is that we need to recognize our mistakes regarding politics, and that it is possible to have future regret for supporting a candidate.

Because Washington D.C. will always let us down (beyond just their sports teams), it is important to put our faith in something of greater value.  For me, as a Christian, that means putting my faith in Jesus Christ, who never lets me down.  Understanding that politics is not the be-all and end-all of life allows us to overcome the inevitable disappointment that stems from it.    

Paul Rutecki is a fourth-year student majoring in accounting who loves to play cello.