Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Rick Gates plead not guilty
Indictment alleges pair moved money through hidden off-shore bank accounts
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a former business associate, Rick Gates, were indicted Monday on charges of conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and several other financial charges.
The charges were the first stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. The indictment filed in federal court in Washington accused both men of funneling tens of millions of dollars in payments through foreign companies and bank accounts.
Both men pleaded not guilty Monday, hours after turning themselves in to federal authorities.
The indictment lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges that they moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.
In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million, according to the indictment.
Manafort, 68, was fired as Trump's campaign chairman in August after word surfaced that he had orchestrated a covert lobbying operation on behalf of pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The Associated Press reported that Manafort also represented a Russian billionaire a decade ago with the goal of advancing the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump took to Twitter later Monday to deny any link between his campaign and Russia.
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
"Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump camaign," he wrote.
Trump then questioned why Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton isn't the focus of an investigation. He followed it up with another tweet.
"Also, there is NO COLLUSION!" Trump wrote.
....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated Trump's position during her afternoon briefing.
"Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity," she said.
Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into whether the Kremlin worked with associates of the Trump campaign to tip the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort has been one of Mueller’s prime targets. Earlier this year, FBI agents raided Manafort's home, searching for tax and international banking records. 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.
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.
Manafort potentially faces up to 80 years in prison, according to a review of the federal charges and the relevant statutes by The Associated Press. Gates, who also worked for the Trump campaign, faces up to 70 years.
Prosecutors could still file additional charges against the pair. If convicted at trial, the law gives federal judges wide latitude in imposing prison sentences and fines.
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