First charges, plea deal emerge in Rus­sia probe

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

WASH­ING­TON: Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort was charged yes­ter­day with con­spir­acy against the United States and money laun­der­ing, in the first in­dict­ments stem­ming from a sprawl­ing probe into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Special coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is lead­ing the probe, also an­nounced that a third per­son had pleaded guilty to ly­ing to FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing the cam­paign’s pos­si­ble links to Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence.

Manafort, 68, and busi­ness part­ner Rick Gates, 45, were charged with al­legedly hid­ing mil­lions of dol­lars they earned work­ing for for­mer Ukrainian politi­cian

Vik­tor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow po­lit­i­cal party. Manafort, a long­time Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive, ar­rived at the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion’s Wash­ing­ton field of­fice to hand him­self in.

Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sor to the cam­paign early last year, pleaded guilty on Oct 5 to mak­ing false state­ments, ad­mit­ting he sought to hide con­tacts with a Moscow-linked pro­fes­sor of­fer­ing “dirt” on Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton. “Pa­padopou­los im­peded the FBI’s on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ex­is­tence of any links or co­or­di­na­tion be­tween in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with the cam­paign and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to in­ter­fere

with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” the in­dict­ment states. Trump soon took to Twit­ter to dis­miss the ex­plo­sive in­dict­ments, once again in­sist­ing there was no col­lu­sion with Rus­sia and call­ing on po­lit­i­cal ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton to be in­ves­ti­gated. “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 ????? ” Trump tweeted. “.... Also, there is NO COL­LU­SION!”

In all, Manafort and Gates were hit with 12 charges of con­spir­acy against the United States, con­spir­acy to laun­der money, fail­ing to regis­ter as a for­eign agent, mak­ing false state­ments and fail­ure to re­port off­shore bank ac­counts. “Manafort and Gates gen­er­ated tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in in­come as a re­sult of their Ukraine work,” the in­dict­ment states. “In or­der to hide Ukraine pay­ments from United States au­thor­i­ties, from ap­prox­i­mately 2006 to at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laun­dered the money through scores of United States and for­eign cor­po­ra­tions, part­ner­ships and bank ac­counts,” it added.

On Sun­day, Trump had called the in­ves­ti­ga­tion a “witch hunt”. With the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion en­ter­ing this dra­matic new phase, Repub­li­can of­fi­cials and con­ser­va­tive me­dia have stepped up at­tacks on Democrats - es­pe­cially Clin­ton - though op­po­nents are dis­miss­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions as bla­tant at­tempts to di­vert at­ten­tion.

Manafort was among the par­tic­i­pants of a June 9, 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tower with a Krem­lin-linked lawyer that raised sus­pi­cions of col­lu­sion be­tween the cam­paign and Moscow. The meet­ing was ar­ranged by Trump’s el­dest son, Don­ald Jr, in hopes of re­ceiv­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Demo­cratic can­di­date. Manafort’s in­dict­ment made no men­tion of Rus­sian in­volve­ment in the US cam­paign, how­ever, fo­cus­ing in­stead on Manafort’s ear­lier Ukrainian ties.

A long-time po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive and con­sul­tant, he was re­cruited in March 2016 to round up pro-Trump del­e­gates to the Repub­li­can Party con­ven­tion. Then in June Trump named him cam­paign chair­man, re­plac­ing fired Corey Le­wandowski. But in Au­gust he re­signed as Ukraine cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­leased files show­ing large pay­ments to Manafort com­pa­nies and it be­came clear he was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the United States in re­la­tion to that. Fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials were re­port­edly aware of wire trans­fers linked to Manafort as far back as 2012, when they be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether he com­mit­ted tax fraud or helped the Ukrainian regime - at the time close to Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin - laun­der money. — AFP

Paul Manafort

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