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Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Manafort, Deputy Indicted on 12 Charges in Russia Probe

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts

What to Know

  • Paul Manafort and an ex-business associate, Rick Gates, were indicted on counts of conspiracy against the U.S. and other charges
  • The charges were the first stemming from Robert Mueller's probe into possible ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia
  • Manafort was axed as Trump's campaign chief in August after it came out he was behind covert lobbying operation for pro-Russian interests

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a deputy campaign official, Rick Gates, have been indicted on 12 charges in an alleged money-laundering and influence-peddling scheme involving the government of Ukraine and conspiracy against the United States.

A third member of the Trump campaign was charged with lying to FBI agents in the probe and pleaded guilty. The charges were the first stemming from Mueller's probe into possible ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, and ushered Mueller's sprawling investigation into a new phase with felony charges and possible prison sentences for key members of the Trump team.

Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington Monday to accusations both men funneled more than $75 million in payments through foreign companies and bank accounts, with Manafort laundering more than $18 million and Gates transferring more than $3 million from the accounts to ones he controlled. They ended the day under house arrest.

"Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income," Mueller alleges in the indictment. Read it in full in the embedded document in this story.

The charges include "conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts," a Mueller spokesman said.

The indictment, filed in federal court in Washington, was unsealed Monday after Manafort and Gates surrendered to federal authorities.

In a second announcement, Mueller's team said Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in Mueller probe. According to court documents, Papadopoulos lied to investigators about what he knew about Russians possessing emails belonging to Hillary Clinton, and when he knew it.

An attorney for Manafort said there is "no evidence" that his client or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Attorney Kevin Downing also said the charges related to his client's offshore money transfers are "ridiculous."

A spokesman for Gates said "he welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court" but will not comment further until after reviewing the indictment, adding, "this fight is just beginning."

Shortly after the announcement about Manafort and Gates, President Donald Trump tweeted, "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 added, "....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!"

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity."

The indictment of Manafort and Gates doesn't reference the Trump campaign or make any allegations about coordination between the Kremlin and the president's aides to influence the outcome of the election in Trump's favor. But the indictment does allege a criminal conspiracy was continuing through February of this year, after Trump had taken office.

Manafort, 68, led Trump's presidential campaign for several months, and has denied wrongdoing. The longtime lobbyist's home was raided by FBI agents in July in search of financial documents and was reportedly told he would face indictment.

CNN first reported Friday that a grand jury approved the charges unsealed on Monday, which was confirmed by NBC News over the weekend.

A statute of limitations issue may have helped drive Monday's action, though the indictment does not preclude more charges being filed against Manafort, four sources, including multiple law enforcement sources, told NBC News.

Investigators have focused on associates including Manafort and ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Manafort joined Trump's campaign in March 2016 and oversaw the convention delegate strategy. Trump pushed him out in August amid a steady stream of negative headlines about Manafort's foreign consulting work.

Trump's middle son, Eric Trump, said in an interview at the time that his father was concerned that questions about Manafort's past were taking attention away from the billionaire's presidential bid.

Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country's former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation was incorporated into Mueller's broader probe.

Previously, he denied any wrongdoing related to his Ukrainian work, saying through a spokesman that it "was totally open and appropriate."

Manafort also recently 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.

Mueller's investigation has also reached into the White House, as he examines the circumstances of James Comey's firing as FBI director. He had been leading the investigation.

Mueller's appointment as special counsel came one week afterward, and also followed the recusal months earlier of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the probe.

Investigators have requested extensive documents from the White House about key actions since Trump took office and have interviewed multiple current and former officials.

Mueller's grand jury has also heard testimony about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer as well as Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

In Gates, Mueller brings in not just Manafort's chief deputy, but a key player from Trump's campaign who survived past Manafort's ouster last summer. As of two weeks ago, Gates was still working for Tom Barrack, a Trump confidant, helping with the closeout of the inauguration committee's campaign account.

NBC's Asher Klein contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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