WASHINGTON – A dramatic morning in Washington as the U.S. Justice Department announced indictments against three advisers of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, including Paul Manafort, who was the campaign manager during the Republican primary and up until the party's 2016 convention. One of the advisers, George Papadopoulos, was revealed to have pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the campaign's contacts with Russia.
The indictments were unveiled by the office of Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel who is investigating Russia's involvement in the 2016 U.S. election. They include charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, who are accused of a "conspiracy against the United States" and massive tax evasion, actions that according to the indictment, took place from 2005 up until 2017; and separate charges against Papadopoulos, which focus on his attempt to hide from the FBI the magnitude of his contacts with Russian individuals during his work as a campaign foreign policy adviser.
Trump responded to the charges against Manafort and Rick Gates, a close associate of Manafort, on Twitter Monday morning. Despite an indictment that includes 2017 activities, trump says manafort charges refer to events before he was part of trump campaign.
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Trump tweeted, "Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus????? Also, there is NO COLLUSION!"
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a former Manafort business associate, Rick Gates, were indicted Monday on felony charges of conspiracy against the United States, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and several other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts.
The indictments, the first arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election effort, bring the probe into a new phase and pose the threat of a years-long prison sentence for the man who once led the president’s campaign.
But the indictment doesn’t reference the Trump campaign or make any allegations about coordination between the Kremlin and the president’s aides to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor. The indictment does allege a criminal conspiracy was continuing through February 2017.
The indictment filed in federal court in Washington accused both men of funneling tens of millions of dollars in payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their political work in Ukraine. Manafort and Gates surrendered to federal authorities Monday, and were expected in court later in the day to face charges brought by Mueller’s team.
The indictment lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges that they moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.
In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million, according to the indictment.
A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately return calls or text messages requesting comment. Manafort and Gates have previously denied any wrongdoing. The White House declined to comment on the charges.
Manafort, 68, was fired as Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016 after word surfaced that he had orchestrated a covert lobbying operation on behalf of pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The indictments against Manafort and Gates were largely based on activities disclosed in August 2016 by The Associated Press, which reported that the pair had directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party.
Citing internal emails, the AP noted that Gates personally directed the work of two prominent Washington lobbying firms. The indictment quotes from some of the same emails the AP had obtained.
The indictment accuses Manafort and Gates of orchestrating a nearly decade-long conspiracy to covertly work for Ukrainian interests and launder millions of dollars through offshore accounts. Specifically, the indictment accuses Manafort of using “his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income.” That included using offshore accounts to purchase multimillion-dollar properties in the U.S., some of which the government is seeking to seize.