Manafort, Gates charged with con­spir­acy against US

Iran Daily - - International -

For­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and for­mer Trump cam­paign of­fi­cial Rick Gates sur­ren­dered Mon­day to Jus­tice Depart­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

Gates, 45, is a long­time busi­ness as­so­ciate of Manafort, 68, hav­ing worked to­gether since the mid-2000s, and served as his deputy on the cam­paign. The two were in­dicted un­der seal on Fri­day, a source with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter said.

The in­dict­ment against the two men con­tains 12 counts: Con­spir­acy against the United States, con­spir­acy to laun­der money, un­reg­is­tered agent of a for­eign prin­ci­pal, false and mis­lead­ing US For­eign Agents Regis­tra­tion Act (FARA) state­ments, false state­ments, and seven counts of fail­ure to file re­ports of for­eign bank and fi­nan­cial ac­counts.

Manafort ar­rived at the FBI’S Wash­ing­ton field of­fice Mon­day morn­ing. The two are be­ing pro­cessed separately, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

CNN has reached out to lawyers for Manafort and Gates.

Dra­matic new de­vel­op­ment

The charges against two top of­fi­cials from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign sig­nals a dra­matic new phase of Mueller’s wide-rang­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and mem­bers of Trump’s team as well as po­ten­tial ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and fi­nan­cial crimes.

A White House spokesman told CNN the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “may not have a re­sponse at all” re­gard­ing the charges.

Manafort, whose work for for­mer Ukrainian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych has at­tracted scru­tiny from fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors, has pre­vi­ously de­nied fi­nan­cial wrong­do­ing re­gard­ing his Ukraine-re­lated pay­ments, his bank ac­counts in off­shore tax shel­ters and his var­i­ous real-es­tate trans­ac­tions over the years. Gates, who has also de­nied wrong­do­ing, was Manafort’s long­time busi­ness as­so­ciate in his lob­by­ing firm be­fore be­ing tapped as his deputy on the Trump cam­paign.

They are the first two of­fi­cials in Trump’s or­bit charged in con­nec­tion with the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is ex­plor­ing whether Trump’s ac­tions sur­round­ing the fir­ing of for­mer FBI direc­tor James Comey amount to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. Mueller has taken a broad ap­proach to his man­date that in­cludes a fo­cus on the fi­nan­cial deal­ings of Trump’s team. Be­fore the in­dict­ment, the FBI in July ex­e­cuted a so­called no-knock search war­rant with guns drawn at Manafort’s home in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, seiz­ing fi­nan­cial and tax doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing some that had al­ready been pro­vided to con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Manafort’s Ukraine work scru­ti­nized

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ in­ter­est in Manafort and Gates goes back well be­fore the spe­cial coun­sel was ap­pointed. For about a decade, Manafort worked for Yanukovych and his Rus­sia-friendly Party of Re­gions. Manafort’s work spurred a sep­a­rate fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2014, which ex­am­ined whether he and other Wash­ing­ton-based lob­by­ing firms failed to reg­is­ter as for­eign agents for the Yanukovych regime.

Gates joined Manafort’s lob­by­ing firm in the mid-2000s and han­dled projects in Eastern Europe, which later in­cluded work for Yanukovych.

Yanukovych was ousted amid street protests in 2014, and his pro-rus­sian Party of Re­gions was ac­cused of cor­rup­tion and laun­der­ing mil­lions of dol­lars out of Ukraine. The FBI sought to learn whether those who worked for Yanukovych — Manafort’s firm, as well as Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing firms Mer­cury LLC and the Podesta Group — played a role. The Podesta Group is headed by Tony Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, the for­mer chief of staff of the Obama White House.

At the time, the case hinged on the fail­ure by the US firms to reg­is­ter un­der the FARA, a law the Jus­tice Depart­ment rarely uses to bring charges. Ear­lier this year, all three firms filed retroac­tively with the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Gates once be­came in­volved in a failed busi­ness ven­ture with Manafort and Rus­sian oli­garch Oleg Deri­paska, a close ally of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, ac­cord­ing to le­gal fil­ings. The plan was for Deri­paska to in­vest $100 mil­lion in a pri­vate eq­uity com­pany that Manafort and Gates would man­age.

The project fell apart, and Deri­paska sued Manafort and Gates in the Cay­man Is­lands for mis­han­dling his money. Deri­paska, a Rus­sian cit­i­zen, has of­fered to co­op­er­ate with Capi­tol Hill in­ves­ti­ga­tions in ex­change for im­mu­nity.

A se­cret or­der au­tho­rized by the court that han­dles the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act (FISA) be­gan af­ter Manafort be­came the sub­ject of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion that be­gan in 2014, sources pre­vi­ously told CNN. But the sur­veil­lance was dis­con­tin­ued last year due to lack of ev­i­dence. Later in 2016, how­ever, the FBI restarted the sur­veil­lance as part of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling. In­ves­ti­ga­tors’ in­ter­est in Manafort was reignited due to in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Manafort and sus­pected Rus­sian op­er­a­tives, and among the Rus­sians them­selves, CNN has re­ported.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Manafort in­ten­si­fied af­ter Mueller was named as spe­cial coun­sel in May. Mueller has hired a team of pros­e­cu­tors who have ex­am­ined Manafort’s fi­nan­cial and tax his­tory stretch­ing back 11 years to Jan­uary 2006, while he was work­ing in Ukraine.

Run­ning the Trump cam­paign

Manafort en­tered the Trump cam­paign or­bit in early 2016, when he reached out to Trump’s daugh­ter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner and of­fered to work for free, ac­cord­ing to The New York Times.

Manafort joined the Trump cam­paign in March 2016 to help with del­e­gate count­ing ahead of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion, as some Repub­li­cans hoped to use ar­cane del­e­gate pro­ce­dures to wrest the nom­i­na­tion from Trump at the con­ven­tion in Cleve­land.

He soon was pro­moted to cam­paign chair­man, and he be­came the top of­fi­cial on the cam­paign af­ter then-cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wandowski was fired in June 2016. His ten­ure didn’t last long. The Times re­ported in Au­gust 2016 that Ukrainian in­ves­ti­ga­tors found Manafort’s name in an off-the-books, hand­writ­ten ledger de­tail­ing se­cret pay­ments — in­clud­ing $12.7 mil­lion to Manafort from Yanukovych’s Party of Re­gions. Manafort de­nied he had re­ceived any such pay­ment and claims the ledger was forged. But just days later, he re­signed from the cam­paign as the ac­cu­sa­tions swirling around him be­came a ma­jor dis­trac­tion for Trump. In ad­di­tion to Manafort’s Ukraine busi­ness deal­ings, his real es­tate deal­ings, over­seas busi­ness ven­tures and bank ac­counts in off­shore havens like Cyprus have also come un­der scru­tiny.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.