Charges should be of concern

Criminal charges against Paul Manafort and a business associate are not linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, but they still should be of great concern.

Manafort was a top aide to Trump during part of the election campaign. But he was fired last August, quite possibly because Trump was upset about Manafort’s other activities.

A federal grand jury indicted Manafort and a former business associate, Rick Gates, last week. They are accused of a variety of offenses, including money laundering and acting as agents for a foreign government without registering as such.

The two reaped millions of dollars from their work for Ukraine and its former president. Manafort alone is accused of laundering more than $18 million in payments from the Ukrainian government.

It appears the two were hired to influence politics in Ukraine and in the United States. Officials of that government, locked in a sometimes violent confrontation with Russia, needed and still require all the friends they can get — or, apparently, buy — in the international community.

Among the most disturbing aspects of the charges is the appearance that Manafort and Gates put personal profit ahead of allegiance to the United States. They were hired guns, in effect.

So, regardless of Manafort’s onetime link to Trump, if the charges are proven, he and Gates should be punished as severely as the law allows.