Mueller in­dicts for­mer Trump cam­paign aides

For­mer Trump cam­paign chief and as­so­ciate are in­dicted

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Kevin John­son and Brad Heath

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates plead not guilty to con­spir­acy and money laun­der­ing in fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Mon­day in Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence.

WASH­ING­TON – Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­duced on Mon­day its first crim­i­nal charges, its first guilty plea and first pub­lic con­fir­ma­tion that an aide to Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign sought an al­le­giance with Rus­sians to gather “dirt” on his po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

The se­ries of charges un­sealed early Mon­day morn­ing is a sig­nif­i­cant step in the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian at­tempts to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which Trump has dis­missed as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” While Mueller did not al­lege that Trump or his cam­paign col­luded with Moscow, the charges of­fer the first pub­lic view into a far-flung crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion that has cast a shadow on the pres­i­dent’s first year in of­fice.

In one case, ex-Trump for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los pleaded guilty to a charge that he lied to FBI agents about his con­tacts with a pro­fes­sor he be­lieved “had sub­stan­tial con­nec­tions to Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials” dur­ing the cam­paign. The pro­fes­sor of­fered him “dirt” — in the form of thou­sands of emails — on Trump’s elec­tion op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

A grand jury also in­dicted for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and his as­so­ciate Rick Gates on charges that they se­cretly worked on be­half of Le­gal fil­ings sug­gest spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is will­ing to dig back be­fore the cam­paign into ac­tiv­i­ties by Trump as­so­ci­ates. pro-Rus­sian fac­tions in Ukraine, then laun­dered mil­lions of dol­lars in prof­its through for­eign bank ac­counts. Pros­e­cu­tors charged that the men sought to cover up their work even while they held se­nior roles in Trump’s cam­paign. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges. A judge on Mon­day placed them un­der house ar­rest, set­ting bond at $10 mil­lion for Manafort and $5 mil­lion for Gates.

At the White House, Trump and his aides sought to down­play the sig­nif­i­cance of the charges, sug­gest­ing that the work Manafort and Gates did in Ukraine was un­con­nected to the cam­paign and that Pa­padopou­los was a low-level of­fi­cial with lit­tle ac­cess or in­flu­ence.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, be­fore Paul Manafort was part of the Trump cam­paign,” the pres­i­dent tweeted. “But why aren’t Crooked Hil­lary & the Dems the fo­cus ????? ”

Trump in­sisted that his cam­paign had no co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia, which the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity has ac­cused of us­ing cy­ber­at­tacks and fake news to in­flu­ence the elec­tion in fa­vor of Trump. “Also, there is NO COL­LU­SION!” he tweeted.

White House spokeswoman Sarah San­ders said Mueller’s charges have “noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent ... noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign.”

But Mueller did draw links be­tween the charges and Trump’s cam­paign. In a court fil­ing signed by both pros­e­cu­tors and Pa­padopou­los, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign aide ac­knowl­edged meet­ing with peo­ple he be­lieved were con­nected to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment while he was serv­ing as an ad­viser to Trump. And the grand jury’s in­dict­ment of Manafort and Gates al­leged that they sought to cover up their Ukraine con­nec­tions while they worked for Trump.

Sen. Mark Warner, the rank­ing Demo­crat and on Se­nate com­mit­tee con­duct­ing its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian med­dling, called Manafort’s in­dict­ment “a sig­nif­i­cant and sober­ing step in what will be a com­plex and likely lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Pa­padopou­los was ar­rested in July, after he re­turned to the United States from a trip to Ger­many. But a judge agreed to keep the case se­cret un­til Mon­day after Mueller’s of­fice said that he had agreed to co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Re­veal­ing his ar­rest “could alert other sub­jects to the di­rec­tion and sta­tus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mueller’s team said in court doc­u­ments.

The for­mer aide ac­knowl­edged in a court fil­ing that he mis­led FBI agents about his con­ver­sa­tions with a pro­fes­sor who told him the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment had ob­tained “thou­sands of emails” with dirt on Clin­ton. The ex­change came amid wide­spread pub­lic­ity about Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server, and months be­fore the anti-se­crecy group Wik­iLeaks re­leased in­ter­nal Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee emails that cast an em­bar­rass­ing light on her cam­paign. U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that the DNC’s emails were hacked at the be­hest of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

While col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents is rou­tine in pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, the in­volve­ment of a for­eign gov­ern­ment is re­mark­able. Pa­padopou­los’ ac­knowl­edge­ment is the first link Mueller has pub­licly drawn be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia.

Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors also un­sealed an ar­ray of charges against Manafort and Gates re­lated to their work for the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine, which be­gan long be­fore both men joined Trump’s cam­paign. The charges in­clude 12 counts of con­spir­acy, money laun­der­ing, fail­ing to reg­is­ter as for­eign agents and mak­ing false state­ments to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

After sur­ren­der­ing to FBI agents, Manafort and Gates ap­peared briefly in fed­eral court in the af­ter­noon. Both men sur­ren­dered their pass­ports and are now re­quired to re­main con­fined in their homes, ex­cept for ap­proved trips to con­sult with at­tor­neys or re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment.

Their in­dict­ment makes no ref­er­ence to Manafort’s work on Trump’s cam­paign. But it al­leges that Manafort’s ef­forts to con­ceal his work on be­half of Ukraine con­tin­ued while he was run­ning the cam­paign. As late as Aug. 19, 2016, three days be­fore Trump fired him, the in­dict­ment al­leges that Manafort and Gates sent “false talk­ing points” to one of the po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firms they had hired to lobby on be­half of pro-Rus­sian fac­tions in Ukraine.

Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Down­ing, called the charges “ridicu­lous” and said his work for Ukraine ended two years be­fore he joined Trump’s cam­paign. “Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was cor­rect,” Down­ing said in a state­ment. “There is no ev­i­dence the Trump cam­paign col­luded with the Rus­sia gov­ern­ment.”

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

WIN MC­NAMEE/GETTY IM­AGES

A grand jury charges Paul Manafort worked to in­flu­ence the gov­ern­ment, then laun­dered prof­its.

SU­SAN WALSH/AP

Rick Gates, a Manafort as­so­ciate, also was charged. Both men pleaded not guilty.

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