Robert Mueller was hired to oversee the investigation into the US election and possible interference by the Russians.

Instead he is spending time indicting Manafort for "money laundering" and what not.

While obviously if a crime has been committed, justice should be served, why do that now? Why not put that in a box somewhere, or let some other unit in FBI handle it, while Mueller focuses on what he should be focusing on, which is Russia's interference in the election? Shouldn't that be his top priority, even if he does have some leeway to look at other things?

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    How do you know he is not focusing on the election? The investigation is not over; he simply brought two indictments. Also, in the US we have something called Statute of Limitations; you can't wait forever to charge someone with a crime. Most crimes have to be charged w/in a certain time frame or you get away with it. – TylerH Oct 30 '17 at 13:48
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    Isn'it only one part of the investigation ? – Max Oct 30 '17 at 13:49
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    @AlexanderO'Mara The name the indictment used for that charge is incredibly misleading. The actual statute is titled "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States," it's the generic federal conspiracy statute, and the conspiracy in question is the same thing the rest of the indictment is about. – cpast Oct 30 '17 at 14:42

OK, first of all, I'd like to stress that the question "why" is rather impossible to answer unless Mr. Mueller deems it worthwhile to create a StackExchange account and post an answer himself. Or grants an interview and answers that same question. (and even then, that would only answer "why according to Mueller's statement" which of course may or may not be the real "why").

That aside, there are numerous possible reasons - we simply don't have enough information as to which of those possibilities are true and to what degree. All these are are guesses.

  • As someone noted in a comment, you can't always put an indictment in a lock box due to Statute of Limitations

  • It's possible that - as was widely speculated for months - this investigation into Manafort is Mueller's way to pressure him into testifying against Trump.

    This is a standard prosecutorial tactic in US Justice system (and worldwide) - you catch an underling, indict them, then exchange leniency in prosecution/sentencing for information.

    Since I'm not a lawyer, I'll let a high profile Democrat lawyer speak as a citation:

    “What they’re saying to him is, ‘we got you now, and we don’t care about that, but if you can tell us something about Trump and the campaign and collusion, we’ll give you a get out of jail card free,’” Dershowitz said. “So it’s all about leverage. That’s the way prosecutors work.” - (Alan Dershowitz)

  • It's also possible that Mueller is simply not finding any evidence of "collusion" (or any criminal interference); and as many other special investigators before him, is trying to squeeze at least some conviction out of his whole activity.

    Dershowitz called the prosecution strategy a “win-win” for special counsel Robert Mueller. If Mueller is unable to use Manafort to lead to larger indictments, “at least he’s earned some of his money,” Dershowitz said.

    That also isn't Mueller-specific; if you recall, Clinton's impeachment was merely an accidental byproduct when Kenneth Starr couldn't find anything indictable in WhiteWaterGate; similarly Fitzgerald got Libby convicted for things despite the fact that as was found later Libby had absolutely nothing to do with the whole Plame affair, which was what he was investigating.

  • It could also be that Mueller simply used what he had, to replace what he couldn't prove (in other words, he knows something wrong was done but can't prove it in the court of law).

    Again, this is pretty standard tactics for Judicial system all over; the most infamous example of which is of course indicting Al Capone on tax evasion instead of the actual crimes he couldn't get convicted of.

  • Similarly to the above, it may simply be that Mueller is trying to show that investigation is Doing Something so he can continue investigating, and not be subject to political pressure to end the investigation as he's not progressing anywhere.

  • Lastly, it can also simply be the way Mueller works.

    He sees a crime happening, and like Robocop, he responds (by indicting). In other words, he may be doing this just as a routine prosecutorial behavior; wholly unrelated to the rest of investigation.

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    Well said, I predict that charge of Manafort lying will be the only successful conviction. And I did hear that Mueller forgot his Stack Exchange password. – Frank Cedeno Oct 30 '17 at 15:14

The legal theory is that Paul Manafort was the nexus around which possible collusion could take place. The hope being that he will provide evidence against other conspirators (e.g. the Podestas) in exchange for a reduction in these charges.

If Robert Mueller left these charges to someone else, they might not be ready when he needs them as leverage against Manafort. Also, as he is investigating this, he can subpoena records from Manafort based on this investigation that his election investigation might not be able to request.

Of course, the risk is that if Mueller can't convict on these charges, his leverage to turn Manafort against other conspirators goes away. And he might lose the ability to use the evidence gathered for this investigation in other crimes. It is presumably for those reasons that Mueller has been reluctant to move forward with this step, as it has been rumored for months.

Some have asserted that there is no link between Manafort and the Podestas. I posted some links here and in a comment. It was then asserted that those links don't connect Manafort and the Podestas. I think this is ranging off subject, but apparently that's where people's minds go. Anyway, you can see for yourself:


That's the overall takeaway from a series of news reports, including one from NBC that indicated that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been investigating the business dealings of Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta. His firm, the Podesta Group, is one of several that did work on behalf of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair of President Donald Trump's campaign.

Mother Jones:

The Podesta Group, a Washington lobbying and public relations company known for its ties to Democrats, is among several firms that worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a multi-year effort to boost the standing Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president of Ukraine who was later forced from office by a 2014 uprising. Tony Podesta is the brother of Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta.

NBC News:

The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources.

Salon and Mother Jones are left-leaning news sites. NBC News is more establishment, although it's worth noting its connection to MSNBC, the most liberal of the cable news networks.

The Podesta Group was founded by brothers Tony and John Podesta. John has spent a good portion of his career working for Hillary Clinton, most recently as her campaign manager.

It's interesting to see how the disinformation flows. For example, a commenter says:

How could he provide evidence on the Clinton campaign, when he worked on the Trump campaign?

He presumably being Manafort in that context. Sure, it is unlikely that Manafort had information on the Clinton campaign, but that's a strawman. He may very well have known about other episodes of Podesta collusion with the Russians, e.g. the Uranium One deal. From the New York Daily News:

Records at opensecrets.org show that the lobbying group also received $90,000 from Uranium One, a company that controls U.S. uranium interests. The company’s sale to Russia has drawn scrutiny because of Russian interests donating to the Clinton Foundation.

Again, the NY Daily News is a left-leaning paper.

The point being that this was the use of a small truth to mislead.

All this is interesting because the predominant narrative to this point has been the possibility that Manafort knows something about Trump colluding with the Russians during the election. But Manafort has much more history with people other than Trump. So turning him may not reach Trump but might instead go through Tony and John Podesta to Hillary Clinton. And there's already substantial evidence that her campaign paid (Vox is another left leaning news site) $9 million to (indirectly) Russian sources for opposition research on Trump.

You know, if you scream "Right wing conspiracy!" every time something negative comes out about your candidate, you are eventually going to be proven wrong. It's just too bad that today was that day. There certainly is a link between Manafort and Tony Podesta, just as there is between Manafort and Trump. Whether those links eventually cause additional indictments is entirely speculation. It's noteworthy that the current charges link to lobbying (what the Podesta Group does) and not to the election (Manafort's connection to Trump), but we don't know where they might go in the future.

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    "The hope being that he will provide evidence against other conspirators (e.g. the Podestas or Hillary Clinton)" Lulz. Someone's be listing to far-right propaganda this weekend... – Alexander O'Mara Oct 30 '17 at 15:49
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    Your links do not appear to offer any link between Manifort and your alleged "other conspirators". How could he provide evidence on the Clinton campaign, when he worked on the Trump campaign? Such a bizarre claim you make. – Alexander O'Mara Oct 30 '17 at 17:17
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    "And there's already substantial evidence that her campaign paid $9 million to Russian sources" Really, because your link makes no such claim. Did you bother to read it? If so, why do you keep misrepresenting your citations? It's very deceitful. – Alexander O'Mara Oct 30 '17 at 20:40
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    @Brythan It also doesn't say anything about "Russian sources". So basically it doesn't say anything you claim it did. You're a really bad liar. – Alexander O'Mara Oct 30 '17 at 21:15
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    Where exactly do you think that Steele got his information about what the Russians knew? If the money did not go to Russian sources, then he made it up. The only way that the Steele dossier has any credibility is if he bought the information from the Russians. But you go with that. May the weather in your world always be sunny and full of unicorns, as your shoes are dripping from walking through the mud of the real world. – Brythan Oct 30 '17 at 21:24

As @user4012 mentioned in their excellent answer, we can't tell for sure unless some official statement appears.

We also should keep in mind that many aspects of the investigation are kept classified.

However, the key misunderstanding seems to be here:

[…] or let some other unit in FBI handle it, while Mueller focuses on what he should be focusing on, which is Russia's interference in the election?

The Russia's interference in the election is not an abstract Russia who abstractly interferes. This can be decomposed to specific people committing specific actions that may be integral parts of Russia's interference in the US Presidential election. Such actions may have occurred much before the election campaign has officially started, or may involve people who are not even directly involved in the election process (like the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin).

For example, such actions could be Deripaska's financing though corrupted proxies, and Mr.Manafort could own such proxy.

Through granting immunity or reaching plea agreement with Mr.Manafort, the investigation may obtain the Manafort's cooperation which would definitely simplify gathering evidence specifically about the Russia's interference in the election.

Once again, we will know this just after Mr.Manafort gets testified, and at least some data is published. We can't tell anything for sure before that.


First of all, Mueller doesn't seem to have any evidence that the Trump campaign, or any American for that matter, colluded with the Russians. He said as much in his indictment. Here are two links for that; they both agree:

Fox news (conservative)
Vox (liberal)

Now, it would be perfectly reasonable to ask, if one doesn't find what one is looking for, why not just end the investigation? That doesn't seem to be the tradition, especially in prominent investigations. If the investigators want to charge the people they are investigating, they can usually find something to charge someone with; there is a saying that "a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich".

Mueller has managed to do that. Some of the charged crimes are serious (Manafort and Gates); others less so (Flynn and van der Zwaan). The reality is that if the prosecutor examine's anyone's life carefully enough, there is some chance they will find a crime somewhere. So why does Mueller do it?

At this point, the answer necessarily becomes speculative. Here are some possible reasons, with my comments in italics

  • He sincerely believes that the crimes he is charging are important enough that it's worth the resources it takes to keep going. In the case of Manafort and Gates, who are charged with making a lot of money working for the pro-Russian former government of Ukraine, then not paying taxes on the income, that actually makes sense.

  • He likes having a nice salary, a large staff, and being in the paper all the time. One imagines Mueller has plenty of money.

  • He hates Donald Trump and wants to "get" him. Mueller is a Republican but does not appear to be conservative. The people he appointed have collectively donated $62,043 to Democrats and $2,750 to Republicans. Politifact (liberal) And Mueller had to know the pro-Clinton leanings of Peter Strzok, who watered down the language in regards to Hillary Clinton. Granted Mueller fired Strzok after his texts became public, but why involve him in the first place?


while Mueller focuses on what he should be focusing on, which is Russia's interference in the election?

We know now that he did focus on Russian interference in the 2016 US election. We have had two indictments (charging 25 Russians and three Russian companies) on this.

GRU indictment

The indictment with case number 1:18-cr-00215-ABJ (dated 13 July 2018) starts with:

In or around 2016, the Russian Federation (“Russia”) operated a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”). The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted largescale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Internet Research Agency indictment

Point two of the indictment (dated 16 February 2018) reads:

Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC (''ORGANIZATION") is a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.


From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.

A press statement accompanying the indictment can be found here.

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