President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a longtime business associate were charged Monday in a 12-count indictment stemming from the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The indictment includes charges of conspiracy against the U.S., being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false statements, money laundering and failing to pay taxes on millions earned as a lobbyist for the former Ukrainian government.
There is no mention in the 31-page document of the 2016 campaign or President Trump.
Prosecutors revealed separately on Monday that George Papadopoulos, one of the early foreign policy advisers to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about his contact with a Russian professor tied to Kremlin officials.
Manafort left his Alexandria, Virginia, home early Monday morning in the company of his attorney, and surrendered to the FBI in Washington shortly after 8 a.m.
Rick Gates, a former business associate of Manafort’s, was also told to surrender to federal authorities, but it was unclear by midmorning whether he had done so.
According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates worked as unregistered foreign agents for the Ukrainian government between 2006 and 2015, and ran a 10-year money-laundering scheme to hide their income.
The pair funneled $75 million into offshore accounts, the charging document states.
The two are also accused of hiding the existence of the accounts, including from the government and their tax preparers.
“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment states. Manafort allegedly laundered $18 million, and used it to buy multimillion-dollar properties in the U.S., as well as luxury goods for himself and his extended family.
“Manafort then borrowed millions of dollars in loans using these properties as collateral, thereby obtaining cash in the United States without reporting and paying taxes on the income,” the document says.
It says Gates assisted Manafort in obtaining money from the offshore accounts and used money from them to pay his mortgage, pay his children’s tuition and redecorate his Virginia home.
Among those watching with interest as Monday’s events unfolded was attorney James Robenalt, an expert on the Watergate crisis, who is scheduled to appear in Atlanta on Monday night with former White House counsel and Watergate figure John Dean.
“I think this indictment is the one that will be the most tangential, in terms of touching the president,” Robenalt said. “If this had been [former national security adviser] Michael Flynn or Jared Kushner, the charges would be directly related to the campaign.”
In this case, Robenalt said, Monday’s indictment appears to focus solely on “alleged crimes uncovered in the course of the Russia probe.”
“This is a logical starting point,” Robenalt continued. “As a prosecutor, when you’re building a case, you start conservatively. Right now, I’m much more intrigued by the indictment of Richard Gates than that of Manafort because he’s likely more susceptible to being flipped by the prosecution.
“That’s the importance of an indictment like this,” Robenalt added. “You’re hoping the subject of the indictment will be willing to give up information or give up people. We’ll have to wait and see on that.”
Robenalt liked the situation to what occurred after Jeb Magruder was indicted in the Watergate case.
Magruder, a former high-level aide to President Richard Nixon, was indicted for lying about any involvement of the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building. After he was charged, he was the first White House staffer to assert that Nixon himself had ordered the break-in, setting the stage for the president’s resignation.
After he reading the indictment, Robenalt, a partner with Thompson Hine’s Business Litigation Group, called its allegations a “shot across the bow.”
“It is a warning to others that things like false reporting of lobbying will result in indictments,” Robenalt said. “Others like General Flynn and Jared Kushner now need to worry they could be next. Perhaps they are already working with Flynn. But rest assured they are after bigger fish here to try to unlock what the campaign did with Russia.
“This is pressure,” Robenalt continued. “And it will continue to ramp up.”
The indictment says Manafort spent $5.4 million for three homes, two of them in New York and one in Virginia. He also wired $4 million to a home-improvement company in the Hamptons, New York, and spent nearly $1 million on antique rugs.
Manafort also allegedly shelled out $163,000 for three Range Rovers, $1.3 million for home-entertainment and lighting systems, and $1.4 million for men’s clothing.
According to a court official at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where a grand jury has been working as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Manafort will be arraigned Monday at 1:30.
The White House has so far declined to comment on the latest developments, but President Trump weighed in on Twitter shortly after 10:30 a.m., drawing a line between himself, his presidential campaign and the allegations in the indictment.
“Sorry but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” the president said. “But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?”
He added later: “… Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Over the weekend and into the wee hours of Monday morning, Trump ignored the pending indictments, instead using his Twitter account to attack the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton for their funding of research that led to the controversial Trump dossier, a compendium of still-unsubstantiated reports that Russia has incriminating material on Trump, including video involving urine and prostitutes.
A conservative website with strong ties to the Republican establishment, the Washington Free Beacon, said Friday the dossier came from an investigation it launched into Trump.
Part of a common practice known as “opposition research” in politics, the Beacon said it originally retained the political research firm Fusion GPS to scour then-candidate Trump’s background for negative information.
The Free Beacon said it stopped paying for the research once Trump was officially the Republican Party’s nominee. The Democrats began paying to continue the research in August 2016.
Top photo | Paul Manafort, right, is one of the four high ranking Trump officials that was the subject of an FBI surveillance request over alleged ties to the Russian government. June 22, 2016, in New York.
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