Donald Trump’s former election manager Paul Manafort was indicted today on criminal charges including conspiracy against the US and money laundering - a development described as a “significant” escalation of the FBI’s probe into alleged Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The indictment against Manafort, 68, and a business and campaign associate, Rick Gates, 45, involves a total of 12 counts. The other charges comprise acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false statements, making false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act statements, and “seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts,” CNN says.
The broadcaster also posted a copy of the unsealed indictment.
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Robert S. Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia inquiry, accuses Manafort of laundering more than $18m (£13.7m) to buy properties, goods and services, The New York Times says.
“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads, according to the newspaper.
Gates, meanwhile, is accused of transferring more than $3m (£2.3m) from offshore accounts.
“As part of the scheme, Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants and legal counsel, among others,” the indictment says.
CNN says the charges mark a “dramatic new phase of Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s team as well as potential obstruction of justice and financial crimes”.
The New York Times claims the charges are “a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over President Trump’s first year in office”.
“With money laundering charges against Paul Manafort, Trump’s ‘fake news’ claim is harder to defend,” The Washington Post adds.
But Erick Erickson of Fox News points out that while many on the political Left are cheering about the indictments, the problem “is that it appears increasingly likely that Manafort’s indictment has nothing to do with the Trump campaign”.
A White House spokesman told CNN that the Trump administration “may not have a response at all” regarding the charges. Hillary Clinton also had no immediate comment, says the broadcaster.
In a separate development, George Papadopoulos, a former Trump foreign policy adviser, admitted he worked with representatives of the Russian government during the election campaign, Bloomberg’s Tom Schoenberg reports today. Papadopoulos, who suggested that Trump meet with top Russian leaders during his campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
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