Black Mon­day for White House

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Chad Day and Eric Tucker The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON » In a black Mon­day for Don­ald Trump’s White House, the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Krem­lin and the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign an­nounced the first charges, in­dict­ing Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man and re­veal­ing how an ad­viser lied to the FBI about meet­ings with Rus­sian in­ter­me­di­aries.

The for­mal charges against a to­tal of three peo­ple are the first pub­lic demon­stra­tion that Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller and his team be­lieve they have iden­ti­fied crim­i­nal con­duct. And they send a warn­ing that in­di­vid­u­als in the Trump or­bit who do not co­op­er­ate with Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors, or who are be­lieved to mis­lead them dur­ing ques­tion­ing, could also wind up charged and fac­ing years in prison.

Paul Manafort, who steered Trump’s cam­paign for much of last year, and busi­ness as­so­ciate Rick Gates ended the day un­der house ar­rest on charges that they fun­neled pay­ments through for­eign com­pa­nies and bank ac­counts as part of their pri­vate po­lit­i­cal work in Ukraine.

Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, also a for­mer cam­paign ad­viser, faced fur­ther ques­tion­ing and then sen­tenc­ing in the first — and so far only — crim­i­nal case that links the Trump elec­tion ef­fort to the Krem­lin.

Manafort and Gates, who pleaded not guilty in fed­eral court, are not charged with any wrong­do­ing as part of the Trump cam­paign, and the pres­i­dent im­me­di­ately sought to dis­tance him­self from the al­le­ga­tions. He said on Twit­ter that the al­leged crimes oc­curred “years ago,” and he in­sisted anew there was “NO COL­LU­SION” be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia.

But po­ten­tially more per­ilous for the pres­i­dent was the guilty plea by for­mer ad­viser Pa­padopou­los, who ad­mit­ted in newly un­sealed court pa­pers that he was told in April 2016 that the Rus­sians had “dirt” on Demo­cratic ri­val 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 was not charged with hav­ing im­proper com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Rus­sians but rather with ly­ing to FBI agents when asked about the con­tacts, sug­gest­ing that Mueller — who was ap­pointed in May to lead the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion — is pre­pared to in­dict for false state­ments even if the un­der­ly­ing con­duct he un­cov­ers might not nec­es­sar­ily be crim­i­nal.

The de­vel­op­ments, in­clud­ing the un­ex­pected un­seal­ing of a guilty plea, usher Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a new, more se­ri­ous phase. And the rev­e­la­tions in the guilty plea about an ad­viser’s Rus­sian con­tacts could com­pli­cate the pres­i­dent’s as­ser­tions that his cam­paign had never co­or­di­nated with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to tip the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in his fa­vor, the cen­tral is­sue be­hind Mueller’s man­date.

Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has al­ready shad­owed the ad­min­is­tra­tion for months, with in­ves­ti­ga­tors reach­ing into the White House to de­mand ac­cess to doc­u­ments and in­ter­views with key cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials.

The Pa­padopou­los plea oc­curred on Oct. 5 but was not un­sealed un­til Mon­day, cre­at­ing fur­ther woes for an ad­min­is­tra­tion that had pre­pared over the week­end to de­flect the Manafort al­le­ga­tions. In court pa­pers, Pa­padopou­los ad­mit­ted ly­ing to FBI agents about the na­ture of his in­ter­ac­tions with “for­eign na­tion­als” who he thought had close con­nec­tions to se­nior Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

The court fil­ings don’t pro­vide de­tails on the emails or whom Pa­padopou­los may have told about the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort.

Pa­padopou­los has been co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, ac­cord­ing to the court pa­pers. His lawyers hinted strongly in a state­ment Mon­day that their client has more tes­ti­mony to pro­vide.

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Paul Manafort, left, leaves Fed­eral District Court in Wash­ing­ton, Mon­day. Manafort, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, and Manafort’s busi­ness as­so­ciate Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to felony charges of con­spir­acy against the United States and other counts.

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