UPDATED with additional details: President Donald Trump’s former top campaign aide Paul Manafort, as well as Manafort’s longtime lobbying partner Rick Gates, have surrendered to federal authorities. News that the high-level Trump campaign aide had been indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation collided with POTUS’ plans for a big week unveiling his tax reform plan and the start of his 12-day trip to Asia. The New York Times first reported it’s Manafort and Gates who face charges in Mueller’s first indictments.
Shortly after Manafort surrendered Monday morning to the FBI field office in Washington, D.C., NBC News reported former Trump campaign foreign-affairs adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in separate case to giving false statement to FBI. This also part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian medding in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort and Gates were indicted on 12 counts including “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.” TV news pundits noted the allegations of conspiracy against the U.S. continued through 2017, which would include Manafort’s relatively brief stint as Trump’s campaign chief.
Early Monday morning, TV news outlets quickly began reporting sources saying the charges against Manafort and Gates were tax related, alleging they hid from federal authorities millions of dollars in foreign payments from the government of Ukraine. A statute of limitations deadline prompted the charges acted on this morning. Today’s action does not preclude more charges against Manafort.
A White House senior official told NBC: “The White House has been saying for weeks the special counsel is moving far more quickly and deliberatively than people have been reporting. The fact that the special counsel is actively performing its duties does not come as a surprise to the White House.”
But, TV news pundits insisted, it’s big news, being the first time high-level aides connected to a president have been indicted in a president’s first year in office.
Manafort joined Trump’s capaign in March 2016 and was upped to chair in June with the ouster of Cory Lewandowski. He was among those who participated, during the campaign, in that Trump Tower meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, and/or a discussion about child adoption, depending on which Donald Jr. statement edition you are reading.
In June, Manafort retroactively registered as a foreign agent. Manafort got the hook in August 2016 after press reports revealed he’d engaged in Ukraine lobbying. The FBI raided Manafort’s home at crack of dawn on a morning in July.
The Trump administration had scrambled over the weekend to downplay the significance of CNN’s scoop that a federal grand jury had approved first charges in Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Meanwhile, Trump, who had spent the time between CNN’s scoop and this morning’s dramatic news tweeting manically about Hillary Clinton, tweeted shortly before the announcement:
TV news outlets are devoting this morning to mulling whether the indictment is a clear path to Trump’s campaign or Trump himself. Morning Joe crowned Manafort a “target-rich environment,” but noted some of his activities may not directly be related to Trump. Much discussion about Mueller having been appointed as a direct result of Trump having fired FBI director James Comey, out of frustration with the Russia probe.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted:
“Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier….the Uranium to Russia Deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey Fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia…’collusion,”’which doesn’t exist.
“The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s…are now fighting back like never befor. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING! All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!”
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