Former top Trump aide in charges row
Blow to president as man who led campaign linked to conspiracy and money laundering
DONALD Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was charged yesterday with conspiracy against the United States and money laundering, in the first indictment stemming from a sprawling probe into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
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.
Special counsel Robert Mueller announced the charges against the two, the first against any close former Trump aides arising from a federal probe into possible collusion in Russia’s effort to tilt the US presidential election in Trump’s favour.
“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 US 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 said.
In all, Manafort and Gates were hit with 12 charges of conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements and failure to report offshore bank accounts.
On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter as speculation mounted charges were about to drop, calling the probe a “witch-hunt” and repeating denials that his White House campaign colluded with Russia.
But in another blow to the president, a Trump campaign aide has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators probing the campaign’s possible links to Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, according to court documents unsealed yesterday. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign last year, entered the plea on October 5, admitting he sought to hide contacts with a Moscow-linked professor offering dirt on Donald Trump’s election rival, Hillary Clinton. “Through his false statements and omissions, defendant 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 said.
The indictment and plea were unsealed a short time after Manafort and Gates were charged.
Manafort was among the participants of a June 9 meeting last year 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 jnr, in hopes of receiving damaging information on Clinton.
A long-time political operative and consultant, Manafort was recruited in March last year to round up pro-Trump delegates to the Republican Party convention. Then in June, Trump named him campaign chairman.
But he resigned in August as Ukraine corruption investigators released files showing large payments to Manafort companies and it became clear he was under investigation in the US. With the Mueller investigation entering a dramatic new phase, Republican officials and conservative media have stepped up attacks on Democrats – especially Clinton.
In his tweets on Sunday, Trump again complained of Clinton’s handling of e-mails while Secretary of State, of Democratic Party funding of what he said was a fake dossier on Trump’s background, and of a US sale during the Obama administration of uranium rights to Russia.