Donald Trump has gone on a Twitter offensive after two of his election chiefs were indicted over charges arising from the investigation into Russian meddlings in the 2016 election, and an adviser pleaded guilty to meeting senior Russians to get ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former presidential campaign chief, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a host of charges including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.
In total, 12 charges have been made against Manafort and one of his business partners, Rick Gates, who also served in the Trump campaign bid. The other charges include tax evasion, fraud and failing to register as agents of foreign interest. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The extraordinary revelations came to light as it emerged another Trump election aide, George Papadopoulus, has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump and tried to secure meetings between him and Vladimir Putin, signed a plea deal on October 5 admitting he met with Russian representatives who promised him information on thousands of emails that would dish ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.
His admission was part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to look into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election campaign aimed at swaying the vote in favour of Trump.
The deal was unsealed on Monday and represents the first time criminal charges have been filed that directly link the Trump campaign to Russian election interference.
It also reveals Papadopoulos secretly met with an unnamed ‘professor’ in London and a Russian woman with close links to Putin as part of the process and then lied about the meeting to the FBI.
The President distanced himself from investigation, saying the the accusations related to events ‘years ago’ and claiming that ‘crooked Hillary’ should be the person under investigation.
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?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
Manafort and Gates were charged on Friday in the District of Columbia in an indictment that was unsealed on Monday after the two men surrendered to the FBI.
Who is Paul Manafort?
Manafort, 68, served the Trump campaign from June to August of 2016 before resigning amid reports that he might have received millions in illegal payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Investigations into Russian links with the Trump campaign, including Mueller’s and probes by several congressional panels, have dogged Trump’s presidency since the Republican took office in January.
Trump has denied any allegations of collusion with the Russians and called the probes “a witch hunt.” The Kremlin has also denied the allegations.
Rick Gates was a long-time business partner of Manafort and has ties to many of the same Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. According to Reuters news agency he acted as ‘de facto leader’ of Trump’s election campaign for two months.
“The indictment contains 12 counts: 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,” the statement from the Justice Department said.
The document states that Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income from work for Ukrainian political parties and leaders and laundered money through U.S. and foreign entities to hide payments between 2006 and at least 2016.
The two are accused of concealing their work and revenue as agents of Ukrainian political parties.
Manafort and Gates will be taken to the federal district courthouse, a FBI spokesman told Reuters.
Today it emerged that another Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal investigators during the Mueller investigation.
He lied about interactions with ‘foreign nationals’ who he believed were close to senior Russian officials, reports the Associated Press.
This is the first example of a person facing criminal charges that explicitly involve interactions between people involved in the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries.
So what about Papadopoulos?
Papadopoulos is the third adviser to Trump’s campaign to face criminal charges in its investigation following the indictment of Manafort and Gates.
Papadopoulos, of Chicago, is an international energy lawyer who was part of Trump’s advisory team during the 2016 presidential campaign. He pleaded guilty on 5 October in a case unsealed on Monday, the special counsel’s office said in a statement.
Charges filed in the District of Colombia and seen by Yahoo News UK state that Papadopoulos had interactions with an overseas professor – who is unnamed in the document but who it is understood had ‘substantial connections’ to Russian government officials.
Papadopoulos acknowledged that the professor had told him about possessing ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails’.
Papadopoulos initially told the FBI he had learned about the emails prior to joining the campaign. However, it has emerged that Papadopoulos knew he was joining Trump’s team in early March – which was before he met to professor on or about March 14, 2016.
Papadopoulos found out about the emails on April 26, after he had been working with Trump for more than a month.
Coincidentally, Papadopoulos made “material false statements and material omissions” during a January 27 interview with the FBI – the same day former director James Comey was asked for a pledge of loyalty during a dinner with Trump
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How was Russia involved in the presidential election?
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded earlier this year that Moscow interfered in the campaign, including by hacking into and releasing Democratic emails in order to try to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Among other things, Mueller has been investigating Manafort’s financial and real estate dealings and his prior work for that political group, the Party of Regions, which backed former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich, sources have told Reuters.
Investigators also examined potential money laundering by Manafort and other possible financial crimes, according to the sources.