Ex-Trump aides in­dicted in U.S. probe

In­no­cent of Rus­sia in­quiry’s 12 counts, Manafort says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller on Mon­day re­vealed charges against three for­mer of­fi­cials with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, the first crim­i­nal al­le­ga­tions to come from probes into pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­flu­ence in U.S. po­lit­i­cal af­fairs.

For­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and his long­time busi­ness part­ner, one­time Trump aide Rick Gates, were in­dicted on 12 counts, in­clud­ing con­spir­acy against the United States, con­spir­acy to laun­der money, act­ing as an un­reg­is­tered for­eign agent, mak­ing false state­ments and sev­eral charges re­lated to fail­ing to re­port for­eign bank and fi­nan­cial ac­counts as part of DEMO­CRATIC LOB­BY­IST tied to Manafort steps down. Page 2A

FROM IN­TERN to in­dict­ment, Gates’ ties to Manafort lengthy. Page 5A

their work ad­vis­ing a Rus­sia-friendly po­lit­i­cal party in Ukraine. The in­dict­ment al­leges the men moved money through hid­den bank ac­counts in Cyprus, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines and the Sey­chelles.

Manafort and Gates pleaded in­no­cent in a brief ap­pear­ance in D.C. fed­eral court Mon­day af­ter­noon. A fed­eral mag­is­trate judge put the men un­der house ar­rest, and both sur­ren­dered their pass­ports to the FBI. The next hear­ing in the case is to be Thurs­day be­fore

U.S. District Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son, a 2011 ap­pointee of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama who pre­vi­ously worked as fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in the District of Columbia.

Manafort’s in­dict­ment doesn’t re­fer to the Trump cam­paign or make any al­le­ga­tions about co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and cam­paign aides. But it does al­lege a crim­i­nal con­spir­acy was con­tin­u­ing through Fe­bru­ary of this year, af­ter Trump had taken of­fice.

The third man charged — for­mer Trump for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los — has al­ready pleaded guilty to mak­ing a false state­ment to FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors who asked about his con­tacts with a for­eigner claim­ing to have high-level Rus­sian con­nec­tions. He ad­mit­ted in newly un­sealed court pa­pers that he was told in April 2016 that the Rus­sians had “dirt” on Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton in the form of “thou­sands of emails,” well be­fore it be­came pub­lic that the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta’s emails had been hacked.

Pa­padopou­los’s plea agree­ment was signed ear­lier this month and un­sealed Mon­day. Mueller’s of­fice re­vealed in a court fil­ing that Pa­padopou­los was now as­sist­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “proac­tive co­op­er­a­tor.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which the FBI be­gan last year but es­ca­lated sig­nif­i­cantly with Mueller’s ap­point­ment in May, has re­peat­edly put the pres­i­dent on the de­fen­sive as re­ports have emerged about the work the spe­cial coun­sel team is do­ing.

The pres­i­dent him­self took to Twit­ter to de­clare in all cap­i­tal let­ters that there is “no col­lu­sion,” af­ter tweet­ing, “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’s spokesman and lawyer also sought to cast the charges as more dam­ag­ing to Clin­ton.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment has noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent, has noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign or cam­paign ac­tiv­ity,” White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said. “The real col­lu­sion scan­dal, as we’ve said sev­eral times be­fore, has ev­ery­thing to do with the Clin­ton cam­paign, [re­search firm] Fu­sion GPS and Rus­sia.”

San­ders said Trump had lit­tle re­ac­tion to the in­dict­ments.

“He re­sponded the same way the rest of us in the White House have,” she said, “and that’s with­out a lot of re­ac­tion, be­cause it doesn’t have any­thing to do with us.”

One per­son fa­mil­iar with Trump’s think­ing said the pres­i­dent dis­missed the money-laun­der­ing charges against Manafort as typ­i­cal po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion that did not re­flect on his cam­paign.

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer over­see­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the Mueller probe, said, “The one thing that’s clear is there’s no ref­er­ence to col­lu­sion, no ref­er­ence to the pres­i­dent.”

Asked about the in­dict­ments while at­tend­ing a lun­cheon in Lit­tle Rock, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son said he was not sur­prised.

“I think it shows the se­ri­ous­ness of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the very sub­stan­tive work that Bob Mueller is do­ing,” Hutchin­son said. “Be­yond that, this is a process that you’ve got to see un­fold and learn more about it.”

San­ders said Trump had “no in­ten­tion or plan to make any changes with re­gard to the spe­cial coun­sel,” and Cobb said there had been no talk of pos­si­ble par­dons for Manafort or Gates.

“No, no, no. That’s never come up and won’t come up,” Cobb said in an in­ter­view.

Out­side the D.C. court­house, Kevin Down­ing, a lawyer for Manafort, said: “Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was cor­rect. There is no ev­i­dence that Mr. Manafort and the Trump cam­paign col­luded with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.”

Glenn Selig, a Gates spokesman, said Gates “wel­comes the op­por­tu­nity to con­front th­ese charges in court.”

“This fight is just be­gin­ning,” Selig said.

PA­PADOPOU­LOS

Court doc­u­ments re­vealed that Pa­padopou­los was first ar­rested and charged in July af­ter land­ing at Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port on a flight from Ger­many.

Pa­padopou­los had been a mem­ber of Trump’s for­eign pol­icy team. When The Wash­ing­ton Post asked Trump about the team in March 2016, he said of Pa­padopou­los, “He’s an en­ergy and oil con­sul­tant, ex­cel­lent guy.”

Ear­lier that month, Pa­padopou­los, 30, first com­mu­ni­cated with a pro­fes­sor in Lon­don with links to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments un­sealed Mon­day. The pro­fes­sor was later iden­ti­fied as Joseph Mif­sud, ac­cord­ing to a Se­nate aide fa­mil­iar with the case.

The pro­fes­sor took in­ter­est in Pa­padopou­los “be­cause of his sta­tus with the cam­paign,” court doc­u­ments said.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pa­padopou­los and Mif­sud would lead Pa­padopou­los to two other peo­ple with ties to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and to at­tempts to ar­range a meet­ing be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials, the doc­u­ments said.

Pa­padopou­los emailed a cam­paign su­per­vi­sor and other mem­bers of the cam­paign’s for­eign pol­icy team, claim­ing the pro­fes­sor had in­tro­duced him to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s niece and the Rus­sian am­bas­sador in Lon­don, and the pur­pose was “to ar­range a meet­ing be­tween us and the Rus­sian lead­er­ship to dis­cuss U.S.-Rus­sia ties un­der Pres­i­dent Trump,” court doc­u­ments said.

The gov­ern­ment noted the woman was not Putin’s niece, and the meet­ing with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador never hap­pened. But through the sum­mer of 2016, Pa­padopou­los con­tin­ued to cor­re­spond with the woman and the pro­fes­sor about a meet­ing be­tween the Trump cam­paign, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing Trump him­self, and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

“The Rus­sian gov­ern­ment has an open in­vi­ta­tion by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Pa­padopou­los wrote to a se­nior pol­icy ad­viser for the cam­paign on April 25, 2016.

At one point, a cam­paign of­fi­cial for­warded one of Pa­padopou­los’s emails to another cam­paign of­fi­cial, say­ing, “We need some­one to com­mu­ni­cate that DT is not do­ing th­ese trips. It should be some­one low level in the cam­paign so as not to send any sig­nal.” DT would ap­pear to be a ref­er­ence to Don­ald Trump.

When the FBI first in­ter­viewed Pa­padopou­los in Jan­uary, he told agents that Mif­sud was “a noth­ing.” But Pa­padopou­los now ac­knowl­edges that he knew the pro­fes­sor had “sub­stan­tial con­nec­tions to Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.”

Af­ter he was in­ter­viewed by the FBI a sec­ond time, Pa­padopou­los changed his phone num­ber and deleted a Face­book ac­count that he used to com­mu­ni­cate with Rus­sian of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to the court doc­u­ments.

San­ders said Pa­padopou­los had an “ex­tremely lim­ited” vol­un­teer role in the cam­paign, and said that “no ac­tiv­ity was ever done in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity on be­half of the cam­paign in that re­gard.” When asked about a photo show­ing Pa­padopou­los as a mem­ber of the for­eign pol­icy team, San­ders replied, “The pres­i­dent has thou­sands of pho­to­graphs with mil­lions of peo­ple.”

At­tempts to reach Pa­padopou­los, who is based in Chicago, and his rel­a­tives in that area were un­suc­cess­ful Mon­day.

Lawyers for Pa­padopou­los said in a state­ment: “We will have the op­por­tu­nity to com­ment on Ge­orge’s in­volve­ment when called upon by the Court at a later date. We look for­ward to telling all of the de­tails of Ge­orge’s story at that time.”

THE CHARGES

The in­dict­ment nam­ing Manafort and Gates al­leges that more than $75 mil­lion flowed through off­shore ac­counts. Manafort is ac­cused of laun­der­ing more than $18 mil­lion.

Manafort, 68, was fired as Trump’s cam­paign chair­man in Au­gust 2016 af­ter word sur­faced that he had or­ches­trated a covert lob­by­ing op­er­a­tion on be­half of pro-Rus­sian in­ter­ests in Ukraine. The in­dict­ment against Manafort and Gates was largely based on ac­tiv­i­ties dis­closed in Au­gust 2016 by The As­so­ci­ated Press, which re­ported that the pair had man­aged a covert Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing op­er­a­tion on be­half of Ukraine’s rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party.

Specif­i­cally, the in­dict­ment ac­cuses Manafort of us­ing “his hid­den over­seas wealth to en­joy a lav­ish life­style in the United States, with­out pay­ing taxes on that in­come.” That in­cluded us­ing off­shore ac­counts to pur­chase mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar prop­er­ties in the U.S., some of which the gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to seize.

The in­dict­ment also cites more than $900,000 in pay­ments to an an­tique rug store, about $850,000 to a New York men’s cloth­ing store and the pur­chase of a Mer­cedes Benz and mul­ti­ple Range Rovers.

Manafort also had reg­is­tered with the Jus­tice De­part­ment as a for­eign agent for parts of Ukrainian work that oc­curred in Wash­ing­ton. The fil­ing un­der the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act came retroac­tively, a tacit ac­knowl­edg­ment that he op­er­ated in Wash­ing­ton in vi­o­la­tion of the fed­eral trans­parency law. The in­dict­ment Mon­day ac­cuses Manafort and Gates of mak­ing sev­eral false and mis­lead­ing state­ments in that For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act fil­ing.

Manafort and Gates also were ac­cused of try­ing to hide funds kept in for­eign bank ac­counts — Manafort from 2011 to 2014, and Gates from 2012 to 2014. And Manafort was ac­cused of fil­ing fraud­u­lent tax re­turns, stat­ing on tax forms he filed from 2008 to 2014 that he con­trolled no for­eign bank ac­counts.

Manafort has ex­pected charges since this sum­mer, when FBI agents raided his home and prose­cu­tors warned him that they planned to in­dict him. That warn­ing raised spec­u­la­tion that Manafort might try to cut a deal to avoid pros­e­cu­tion.

Peo­ple close to Manafort, in­clud­ing his for­mer busi­ness part­ner Roger Stone, have said he had noth­ing to of­fer that would help prose­cu­tors build a case against Trump.

“He’s not go­ing to lie,” Stone said in Septem­ber.

While Mueller’s probe has fo­cused on Manafort and for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have shown in­ter­est in a broad ar­ray of other top­ics.

Those in­clude meet­ings the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, had with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador and a banker from Moscow in De­cem­ber, and a June 2016 meet­ing at Trump tower in­volv­ing the pres­i­dent’s son, Don­ald Jr., and a Rus­sian lawyer. Mueller’s team has re­quested ex­ten­sive records from the White House, cov­er­ing ar­eas in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent’s pri­vate dis­cus­sions about fir­ing James Comey as FBI di­rec­tor and his re­sponse to news that Flynn was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the re­quests.

Mueller is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Trump ob­structed jus­tice lead­ing up to Comey’s fir­ing.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Matt Zapotosky, Ros­alind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Bar­rett, Alice Crites, Sari Hor­witz, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, Philip Rucker, Ash­ley Parker and Adam En­tous of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Eileen Sul­li­van, Glenn Thrush, Adam Gold­man and Ni­cholas Fan­dos of The New York Times; by John Moritz of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette; and by Chad Day, Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller, Jonathan Lemire, Michael Biesecker, Stephen Braun, Tom LoBianco, Sadie Gur­man, Ken Thomas and Jeff Hor­witz of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

Paul Manafort makes his way through tele­vi­sion cam­eras Mon­day as he walks from Fed­eral District Court in Wash­ing­ton af­ter plead­ing in­no­cent to felony charges of con­spir­acy against the United States and other counts.

AP/SU­SAN WALSH

Kevin Down­ing, the at­tor­ney for Paul Manafort, speaks to re­porters out­side the fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton, af­ter Manafort pleaded in­no­cent to charges stem­ming from Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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