Paul Manafort, who served as U.S. President Donald Trump‘s campaign chairman for several months last year, has been indicted for charges that he laundered U.S. 18 million dollars from his lobbying work in Ukraine by funnelling those funds through international shell companies.
The charges, along with those levelled against Manafort’s associate Rick Gates and separate charged against former campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, represent the first charges levelled by former FBI director Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.
Through their legal representation, Manafort and Gates plead not guilty to the charges.
This specific instance of alleged money laundering refers to Manafort’s work before his formal ties to the Trump campaign, and the indictment doesn’t mention Russian interference with the election.
However, it suggests that Mueller’s investigation is interested in more tangential links: Manafort conducted extensive lobbying work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who himself has a strong pro-Russia stance.
FWIW, Manafort was booted from the Trump campaign after it was reported he received more than U.S. $12 million in undisclosed payments from Yanukovych. When he was a Trump campaign figure, Manafort also attended a meeting with a Russian government-linked lawyer who claimed to have damaging intel on presidential election opponent Hillary Clinton.
It has now been revealed Papadopoulos plead guilty to the separate charge of lying to the FBI earlier this month, regarding the timing of his conversation with a Russian professor he knew to have significant relations with the Russian government. In January, Papadopoulos told the FBI the conversation took place before his appointment to the Trump campaign. He now admits the conversation took place afterwards.
Trump himself has spoken out about the indictment, reiterating the alleged money laundering happened way before Manafort was hired. He also attempted to deflect the investigation onto, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.
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
This one is only gonna get bigger, friends.