Trump aides charged in Rus­sia in­quiry

Ex-cam­paign chair­man and his busi­ness as­so­ciate deny con­spir­acy against US For­mer ad­viser ar­rested in July has pleaded guilty over con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SUZANNE LYNCH in Wash­ing­ton

The Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion that has over­shad­owed Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency took a sen­sa­tional turn yes­ter­day as two of his for­mer aides were charged with crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing con­spir­acy against the United States.

For­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort (68) and his busi­ness as­so­ciate Rick Gates (45) ap­peared at the fed­eral dis­trict court in Wash­ing­ton DC, hav­ing sur­ren­dered to the FBI shortly af­ter 8am. They pleaded not guilty to 12 charges, and were re­leased on bonds of $10 mil­lion and $5 mil­lion re­spec­tively. Both were placed un­der house ar­rest.

Separately, it emerged in FBI doc­u­ments that Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los (30), a for­mer for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign, was ar­rested in July as he ar­rived at Wash­ing­ton’s Dulles air­port. He pleaded guilty ear­lier this month to ly­ing to the FBI in Jan­uary about the na­ture of his com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the cam­paign.

While Mr Manafort’s and Mr Gates’s al­leged crimes re­late to their fi­nan­cial links with pro-Rus­sian Ukraini­ans while work­ing on the Trump cam­paign, Mr Pa­padopou­los’s ar­rest has po­ten­tially more se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Court doc­u­ments show how Mr Pa­padopou­los tried to bro­ker meet­ings be­tween the cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Off-the-record meet­ing

One ex­change quoted in the FBI doc­u­ments re­veals that a mem­ber of the cam­paign team en­cour­aged Mr Pa­padopou­los to make a trip for an off-the-record meet­ing with Rus­sian of­fi­cials “if fea­si­ble” – a state­ment that could in­di­cate a will­ing­ness to col­lude with Rus­sia.

Mr Pa­padopou­los is un­der­stood to be co-op­er­at­ing with the FBI.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said that the in­dict­ments had “noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent, with the cam­paign or cam­paign ac­tiv­ity”, claim­ing that most of the ac­tiv­ity took place be­fore the Trump cam­paign ex­isted.

She said Mr Pa­padopou­los was a vol­un­teer who had an “ex­tremely lim­ited” role in the Trump cam­paign.

Out­side the court, a lawyer for Mr Manafort said that there was “no ev­i­dence that Mr Manafort or the Trump cam­paign col­luded with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment”, stat­ing his client, through his work for Ukrainian in­di­vid­u­als, was seek­ing to “fur­ther democ­racy and help Ukraine come closer to the United States and the EU”.

Pro-Rus­sian Ukraini­ans

The 31-page in­dict­ment pub­lished by the FBI re­veals Mr Manafort and Mr Gates re­ceived tens of mil­lions of dol­lars from pro-Rus­sian Ukraini­ans in­clud­ing for­mer prime min­is­ter Vik­tor Yanukovych for years, much of which was chan­nelled through bank ac­counts in Cyprus, but was not dis­closed.

“Manafort and Gates en­gaged in a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar lob­by­ing cam­paign in the United States” at the di­rec­tion of Yanukovych and oth­ers, the doc­u­ment states, “with­out reg­is­ter­ing and pro­vid­ing the dis­clo­sures re­quired by law”.

The ac­tiv­i­ties took place be­tween about 2006 and up to “at least 2016” ac­cord­ing to the FBI – a pe­riod which may cover Mr Manafort’s and Mr Gates’s in­volve­ment with the Trump cam­paign, though no men­tion is made of the pres­i­dent or his ad­min­is­tra­tion in the pa­pers.

Re­gard­ing Mr Pa­padopou­los, the FBI af­fi­davit al­leges he made “ma­te­rial false state­ments and ma­te­rial omis­sions” in an FBI in­ter­view in Jan­uary.


Paul Manafort (right) leaves court in Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day

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