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Paul Manafort, Rick Gates Plead Not Guilty to Charges Stemming From Russia Probe

Paul Manafort Rick Gates
Matt Rourke/AP/REX/Shutterstock

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former associate Rick Gates each pled not guilty on Monday to charges stemming from 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 foreign agents, and false statements, for a period stretching from 2006 to 2017. Their charges included seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Each made their first appearance at a federal court in Washington on Monday afternoon. A judge set a bond at $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates, and they were released to home detention.

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.

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.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to distance Trump from Manafort and Gates. She told reporters at the daily press briefing 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.

Sanders downplayed Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, noting that he was not a paid staffer.

Trump, a number of Republican lawmakers, and commentators on Fox News have sought to focus on reports that a law firm connected to the Clinton campaign paid for the opposition research firm that in turn hired a former British intelligence officer to gather information on Trump and his connections to Russia. The information was included in a once-secret “dossier,” which was fully disclosed after the election.

Update: Kevin Downing, attorney for Manafort, said in a statement that he read to reporters that “there is no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russia government.”

“Mr. Manafort represented pro-European Union campaigns for the Ukrainians and, in the court of that representation, he was seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukraine come closer to the United States and the EU. Those activities ended in 2014, over two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign. Today, you’ve seen an indictment brought by an office of special counsel that is using a very novel theory to prosecute Mr. Manafort regarding a FARA filing.”

He was referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Unit, which requires disclosure when a U.S. citizen represents a foreign government.

He also said that he found it “most ridiculous” that prosecutors claim “that maintaining offshore accounts to bring all of your funds into the United States” is “a scheme to conceal from the United States government.”