Feds indict Paul Manafort, business associate in Russia probe

UPDATE 2 — 11/5, 12:19 p.m. EST: NBC News is citing sources who say special counsel Robert Mueller has found enough evidence to indict retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for money laundering and giving false statements to federal investigators.

Insiders with ties to the investigation said Gen. Flynn’s son, Michael G., who participated in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, could also face federal charges. Both Flynns had contact with the governments of Turkey and Russia before and during the election.

The elder Flynn is accused of accepting millions of dollars from the Turkish government in consulting fees and for seeking to remove an enemy of President Recep Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen, from the U.S.

 

UPDATE — 4:54 p.m. EDT: Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were released Monday afternoon on $10 million and $5 million bonds, respectively, and placed under house arrest after pleading not guilty in a Washington federal court to 12 charges leveled in regard to their foreign business and political dealings.

 

The special prosecutor investigating ties between the GOP’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian Federation charged two former Trump campaign officials on Monday.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and ex-business associate Richard Gates, also a former aide to the Trump campaign, surrendered to the FBI Monday morning following charges leveled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The pair were expected to appear in court later Monday.

In a sweeping 12-count indictment, the men were charged with conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, providing false or misleading Foreign Agents Registration Act statements and seven counts of not reporting foreign financial accounts.

According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates controlled a $75 million slush fund in offshore accounts, which the two men used to subsidize a “lavish lifestyle”, according to the indictment.  Prosecutors contend Manafort withdrew $18 million to pay for antiques, cars, clothing trips and renovations on two homes.

Gates is alleged to have taken approximately $3 million to fund a luxurious lifestyle.  Neither man reported the income on U.S. tax forms.

“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on his income,” read the indictment.

Although the duo’s criminal activities are unrelated to the Trump campaign and occurred between 2006–2015, Bloomberg’s chief Washington correspondent, Kevin Cirilli, tweeted Monday morning that Gates attended White House meetings “several times this year.”

In court documents unsealed Monday morning, it was also revealed a third man, former policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, admitted to making false statements to FBI agents in relation to questions about contact he had with individuals that knew agents of the Russian government who allegedly had “dirt” on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Responding to the news late Monday morning, President Trump dismissed the significance charges against his former campaign advisers and suggested government prosecutors instead focus on Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Congressional Democrats also responded, calling on their Republican colleagues to support legislation that would prevent Trump from firing Mueller and encourage the federal investigation to continue.

“Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” Senate intelligence committee vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders commented later Monday at an afternoon press conference, saying the president has “no intention or plan” to remove Mueller as special counsel.  Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, expressed similar sentiments in a CNN interview: “The president is not interfering with special counsel Mueller’s position, he’s not firing the special counsel.”

On Tuesday, Sekulow followed up on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, saying Trump is not actively considering a pardon for any campaign aides charged with federal crimes.

Mr. Manafort had been the center of an investigation by Mueller over alleged violations to tax laws and illegal financial transactions.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

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