Top Trump al­lies face crim­i­nal charges

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Ben Ri­ley-Smith

DON­ALD TRUMP’S elec­tion cam­paign chair­man was yes­ter­day charged with se­cretly lob­by­ing for a pro-Rus­sian party in Ukraine in ex­change for mil­lions of dol­lars.

Paul Manafort, who held the cam­paign role for three months, was ac­cused of work­ing for the party for around a decade with­out telling US au­thor­i­ties.

Dur­ing that time his firm is al­leged to have met with Con­gress­men about sanc­tions against Ukraine and to have de­fended the con­tro­ver­sial ar­rest of a po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

Mr Manafort also faces charges of laun­der­ing money through for­eign com­pa­nies and bank ac­counts – a charge that could carry a 20-year sen­tence – and mis­lead­ing the au­thor­i­ties about the true scale of his lob­by­ing.

In a dra­matic day in Wash­ing­ton DC, both Mr Manafort and his col­league Richard Gates handed them­selves in to the FBI af­ter be­ing told they would be in­dicted. They both deny the charges against them.

DON­ALD TRUMP’S elec­tion cam­paign chair­man was yes­ter­day charged with se­cretly lob­by­ing for a pro-Rus­sian party in Ukraine in ex­change for mil­lions of dol­lars.

Paul Manafort, who held the cam­paign role for three months, was ac­cused of work­ing for the Party of Re­gions group for around a decade with­out telling US au­thor­i­ties.

Dur­ing that time his firm is al­leged to have met with Con­gress­men about sanc­tions against Ukraine and to have de­fended the con­tro­ver­sial ar­rest of a po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

Mr Manafort also faces charges of laun­der­ing money through for­eign com­pa­nies and bank ac­counts and mis­lead­ing the au­thor­i­ties about the true scale of his lob­by­ing.

In a dra­matic day in Wash­ing­ton DC, both Mr Manafort and his col­league Richard Gates handed them­selves in to the FBI af­ter be­ing told they would be in­dicted. To­gether they face 12 charges in­clud­ing “con­spir­acy against the United States”, “con­spir­acy to laun­der money”, and be­ing an “un­reg­is­tered agent of a for­eign prin­ci­pal”.

Money laun­der­ing, the most se­ri­ous charge, car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of 20 years in prison. Mr Manafort and Mr Gates deny the charges.

Gov­ern­ment lawyers re­quested that Mr Manafort’s bail be set at $10m (€8.58m) and Mr Gates’s at $5m (€4.3m). Both are un­der house ar­rest.

Mr Manafort’s at­tor­ney said there was “no ev­i­dence” his client or the Trump cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia and called the al­le­ga­tions “ridicu­lous”.

The charges are the first to be brought by an of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s links with Rus­sia, led by spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump and the White House last night said the charges were not di­rectly linked to Mr Manafort’s time with the cam­paign and dis­missed any sug­ges­tion of “col­lu­sion” with Rus­sia. Mr 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?”

En­cour­age

Com­men­ta­tors sug­gest the ar­rests may be used to en­cour­age Mr Manafort to share in­for­ma­tion with in­ves­ti­ga­tors in re­turn for le­niency. The de­vel­op­ments marked another twist in the story of Mr Trump’s ties to Rus­sia that has con­tin­ued to dog his first year in the White House, to the fury of the pres­i­dent.

Mr Manafort is an ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tive who ad­vised pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H W Bush. He was taken on by the Trump cam­paign in March 2016 to se­cure the del­e­gate votes needed to wrap up the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

In May, Mr Manafort was pro­moted to cam­paign chair­man and chief strate­gist – a po­si­tion he held un­til Au­gust, when he re­signed, as re­ports about his links to Ukraine be­gan to sur­face. In a 31-page doc­u­ment pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice yes­ter­day, Mr Manafort and Mr Gates were ac­cused of over­see­ing a “multi-mil­lion-dol­lar lob­by­ing cam­paign” that was never de­clared be­tween 2006 and 2015.

The work was said to have been on be­half of Party of Re­gions, the Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal group known for its pro-Rus­sian sen­ti­ments.

The party’s leader, Vik­tor Yanukovych, be­came Ukrainian pres­i­dent in 2010 be­fore flee­ing in 2014 af­ter an up­ris­ing that re­sulted in fight­ing in the east of the coun­try. Mr Manafort and Mr Gates, his “right-hand man”, were ac­cused of us­ing two Wash­ing­ton DC com­pa­nies to lobby Amer­i­can politicians on be­half of the Ukrainian party.

“Among other things, they lob­bied mul­ti­ple mem­bers of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanc­tions, the va­lid­ity of Ukraine elec­tions, and the pro­pri­ety of Yanukovych’s im­pris­on­ing his pres­i­den­tial ri­val,” the in­dict­ment reads.

They also fed back the in­for­ma­tion to their Ukra­nian pay­mas­ters, ac­cord­ing to the charges, with Mr Manafort telling Mr Yanukovych in 2012 that he would pro­vide a “weekly up­date” on progress.

The pair never told the US au­thor­i­ties of the work. It is il­le­gal to act as a for­eign “agent” seek­ing “United States in­flu­ence” – one of the charges both men now face. (© Daily Tele­graph Lon­don)

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort (left) and Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller

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