Rev­e­la­tions about one cam­paign mem­ber could be very se­ri­ous:

Rev­e­la­tions about a ju­nior cam­paign mem­ber could be very se­ri­ous

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Suzanne Lynch Wash­ing­ton Cor­re­spon­dent

The in­dict­ment of three men as­so­ci­ated with the Trump cam­paign marks an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­vel­op­ment in the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the US elec­tion.

Re­ports that ar­rests were im­mi­nent sur­faced on Fri­day night, af­ter CNN first re­ported that the fed­eral grand jury in Wash­ing­ton had ap­proved the first charges in the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Shortly af­ter 8am yes­ter­day, Mr Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort walked into the FBI of­fice in Wash­ing­ton DC and sur­ren­dered. Shortly af­ter, Rick Gates also turned him­self in. At a 1.30pm court hear­ing both men pleaded not guilty to the 12 charges.

Mr Manafort’s ar­rest was not en­tirely un­ex­pected; in July FBI agents raided his home in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, just a few miles from DC.

Although less well-known that Mr Manafort, who led the Trump cam­paign un­til he was dis­missed in Au­gust fol­low­ing re­ports of an undis­closed $12 mil­lion pay­ment from for­mer Ukrainian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, Mr Gates con­tin­ued his as­so­ci­a­tion with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion long af­ter his men­tor’s de­par­ture, play­ing a role in the pres­i­dent-elect’s in­au­gu­ra­tion com­mit­tee.

Lav­ish life­style

The 31-page in­dict­ment paints a de­tailed pic­ture of how Manafort chan­nelled tens of mil­lions of dol­lars of Ukrainian money through mainly Cypriot bank ac­counts to fund a lav­ish life­style in the US, us­ing the money to pay in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tors and an­tiques deal­ers and to set­tle bills at high-end clothes shops in New York.

The pay­ments were hid­den, not just from the US tax­man, but also from fed­eral au­thor­i­ties when both men be­gan work­ing for the Trump cam­paign – a crim­i­nal of­fence.

But while the 12 charges against Mr Manafort and Mr Gates are se­ri­ous – money laun­der­ing alone com­mands a max­i­mum prison sen­tence of 20 years – the rev­e­la­tion that Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a more ju­nior cam­paign mem­ber, sought to bro­ker meet­ings with the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia is po­ten­tially more se­ri­ous. De­tails of emails be­tween Mr Pa­padopou­los and se­nior cam­paign of­fi­cials sug­gest a pos­si­ble will­ing­ness to col­lude on the part of mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign. One ex­change shows that a cam­paign of­fi­cial en­cour­aged Pa­padopou­los to meet Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Top of the cam­paign

There are re­ports that the se­nior cam­paign of­fi­cial cited in the FBI doc­u­ment is Mr Manafort him­self, Mr Trump’s cam­paign chair­man at the time, which would sug­gest that in­di­vid­u­als at the very top of the Trump cam­paign were will­ing to meet Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

This, to­gether with rev­e­la­tions ear­lier this year that Mr Manafort, Don­ald Trump jnr and the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law Jared Kush­ner met Rus­sian in­di­vid­u­als on June 9th, 2016, in Trump Tower on the pre­text of gain­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton, strays dan­ger­ously close to the ter­ri­tory of col­lu­sion.

A cen­tral ques­tion now is to what ex­tent Pa­padopou­los is co-op­er­at­ing with the FBI and whether he has fur­nished any other in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Manafort to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. In the mean­time, many other mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion who are cur­rently em­ployed in the White House may be feel­ing ner­vous as they wait to see if they will be ques­tioned about how much they knew about links be­tween the cam­paign team and Rus­sian rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

IM­AGE: BILL HEN­NESSEY/REUTERS

Court sketch of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates ap­pear in front of US mag­is­trate Deborah Robin­son in a US fed­eral court dur­ing a hear­ing of the first charges stem­ming from a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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