Paul Manafort, Former Trump Campaign Head, Indicted in Russian Investigation

Paul Manafort resigns
Greg E. Mathieson Sr./REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered at the FBI field office after he and his former business associate Rick Gates were told give themselves up to federal authorities on Monday morning as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort, 68, and Gates, 45, were indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agents and false statements. The charges included seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Their work with the Trump campaign was not mentioned in the 31-page indictment but it does allege activity that extended through last year and even into this year.

“Between at least 2006 and 2015, Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine, the party of regions (a Ukrainian political party whose leader Victor Yanukovych was president from 2010 to 2o14), Yanukovych, and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions that formed in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Russia,” the indictment stated.

It continued, “Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income as a result of their Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered money through scores of United States corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”

There had been multiple reports that Mueller’s investigation was extending to Manafort’s business ties before he joined the campaign.

The indictment goes on to allege that Manafort and Gates funneled money to foreign accounts and entities in Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles, and then hid their existence. It also claimed that they hid from federal authorities work on the behalf of the Ukrainian government and political leaders there.

The indictment contended that Manafort used his “hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income.” It also alleged that Manafort used the offshore money to purchase property in the United States, then used that property as collateral to obtain millions of dollars in loans, without reporting that U.S. currency as income.

Manafort laundered more than $18 million, and that $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts, according to the indictment, and Gates transferred more than $3 million to accounts he controlled.

Manafort, a lawyer and lobbyist, joined Trump’s campaign team in March 2016, and was elevated to the role of campaign manager from June to August 2016. He resigned amidst a scandal about his work for pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.

Gates is a former protege of Manafort, and also was his deputy during Manafort’s tenure on the Trump campaign. After the campaign, he joined a non profit, America First Policies, but he resigned in March after questions continued to be raised about Manafort’s business dealings and Gates’ work with him.

Manafort and Gates were highly visible figures in the campaign during the Republican National Convention. Manafort was retained by the Trump campaign earlier in the year, during the primary season, to help secure and strategize in the winning of delegates to secure the nomination. Gates stayed with the campaign after Manafort’s exit.

Reports that Russia played a role in advocating for Trump and in circulating disinformation critical to his opponent Hillary Clinton have dogged the president’s first months in office. Over the weekend, the Trump team tried to shift focus to reports that the Clinton campaign had funded a dossier of evidence alleging that the former reality TV star and developer was vulnerable to Kremlin blackmail.

Trump distanced himself from Manafort in a tweet on Monday, writing, “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?????

He added, “…Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

In a series of tweets over the weekend Trump railed against the Clinton campaign’s sponsorship of the dossier information and a uranium deal with Russia that was approved under the Obama administration.  He implied the probe was a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

“Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?),” he tweeted, adding, “The Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia,’collusion,’ which doesn’t exist.”

The House and Senate intelligence committees are also investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election, but Republicans have been pressing to wrap up those probes by the end of the year. Last week, the House Republicans announced a new investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, and into  the uranium deal, in which a Russian-controlled firm acquired about 20% of U.S. uranium mining interests with the approval of the Obama administration.

CNN reported on Friday that Mueller had filed the first charges in the case, leading to a whirlwind of speculation over the weekend over who would be the target. Early on Monday, news crews staked out Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Va., and he was later shown walking into an FBI field office.

Trump’s tweets about the Russia investigation has led to fears that he would move to fire Mueller, just as he dismissed James Comey as FBI director in May.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) alluded to that possibility in a statement reacting to the indictments.

He said that Mueller’s actions “show that the special counsel’s probe is ongoing in a very serious way. The rule of law is paramount in America and the investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded.

“The President must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way,” he added. “If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues.”

Update: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign, or campaign activity. The real collusion scandal, as we have said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS and Russia.”

But Mueller’s office also released an unsealed guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign. He admitted lying to FBI investigators about the timing and extent of his contacts with several people who said that they had contacts with high-ranking Russian officials.