What Is Conspiracy Against The United States? Paul Manafort Faces Serious Charges In Russia Probe

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered to the FBI Monday on charges relating to the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates have been indicted on 12 charges, including "conspiracy against the United States."

According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates are charged with "knowingly and intentionally [conspiring] to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury, and to commit offensives against the United States." The charges relate to 2006 and 2017, which includes the time Manafort worked on Trump's campaign.

But what exactly does it mean to be charged with conspiracy against the United States?

It sounds extreme and could give the impression that it is linked to allegations of colluding with Russia to interfere in the election, but it may not be as serious as that. It could instead relate to the money laundering and tax evasion charges included in the indictment.

The indictment does not explicitly mention Russian collusion or the Trump campaign but relates more specifically to Manafort's activities in Ukraine, where, for nearly a decade, he worked as a consultant to Ukraine's Party of Regions, led by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and backed by Russian oligarchs (and Russian President Vladimir Putin).

Manafort and Gates are accused of misleading U.S. authorities about their work for the pro-Russia Ukrainian political party and laundering more than $75 million in payments received for those activities.

“Conspiracy against the United States” sounds super dramatic here but it’s related to the money laundering tax evasion charges

— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@AdamSerwer) October 30, 2017

According to U.S. law, conspiracy against the United States is defined as:

"If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

"If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor."

More details are needed to determine exactly what this means in the context of the Russia investigation.