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Ex-Trump aides Manafort-Gates charged in Russia probe, Papadopoulos pleads guilty

  • Published at 07:19 pm October 31st, 2017
Ex-Trump aides Manafort-Gates charged in Russia probe, Papadopoulos pleads guilty

Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 US election charged President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering.

A third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI, it was announced on Monday.

It was a sharp escalation of US Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller's five-month-old investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt the election in Trump's favour and into potential collusion by Trump aides.

Manafort, 68, a longtime Republican operative, and Gates were arraigned at a federal courthouse in Washington.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges in a 12-count indictment, ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government.

The judge ordered house arrest for both men, and set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and a $5 million unsecured bond for Gates. With unsecured bonds, they are released without having to pay but will owe money if they fail to appear in court. There will be another hearing on Thursday.

Mueller's investigation and others by congressional committees into alleged Russian efforts to influence the election have cast a shadow over Trump's first nine months in office.

US intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the election by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Russia denies the allegations and Trump denies any collusion.

Guilty plea

In a development directly related to Trump's 2016 election campaign, it emerged on Monday that Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

Mueller's office said Papadopoulos lied to FBI agents about the timing of contact between him and a professor in London who claimed to have information that would hurt Clinton.

Papadopoulos, a little-known former foreign policy adviser in the campaign, made a plea bargain that stated he had since "met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions," according to a court document.

Frustration

Trump reiterated his frustration on Monday with the Mueller probe, which he has called "a witch hunt."

"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?????," Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to Clinton.

Mueller has been investigating Manafort’s financial and real estate dealings and his prior work for a political group, the Party of Regions, which backed former pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income from Ukraine work and laundered money through scores of US and foreign entities to hide payments from American authorities, the indictment said.

They concealed from the United States their work and revenue as agents of Ukrainian political parties and used their wealth to lead a "lavish lifestyle" without paying taxes on the income, it said.

Gates was a longtime business partner of Manafort and has ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. He also served as deputy to Manafort during his brief tenure as Trump's campaign chairman.