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Mueller Investigation Escalates as First Indictments Come Down

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17: Former Donald Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort looks on during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Federal authorities have charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates with 12 counts of "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." Neither Gates, who worked for Manafort’s international firm, Davis Manafort Partners, between 2006 and 2007. nor Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, responded to requests for comment.

Manafort has expected charges since July, when FBI agents working for Mueller raided his Alexandria home in late July. Prosecutors had also warned Manafort that they planned to indict him, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. Investigators had earlier wiretapped Manafort, but dropped their investigation, citing lack of evidence. They later reopened the case because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.


President Donald Trump and his team have continued to deny any wrongdoing, even as rumors of Manafort's arrest circulated through Washington over the weekend. The president appeared to lash out via Twitter over the weekend.

Ty Cobb, the president's attorney later denied the president's reaction was in connection to the news of Mueller's escalating investigation. “Contrary to what many have suggested, the president’s comments today are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate,” Cobb said in a statement.

But the president issued more tweets this morning.

Manafort was forced to resign from Trump’s campaign last August amid revelations that he, while working in Ukraine as an international consultant, allegedly pocketed $12.7 million in cash payments from Ukraine’s former ruling party between 2007 and 2012. The report, initially published in the New York Times, asserts that the money could be part of an illegal, off-the-books system. Officials with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau say the listed payments come from a handwritten ledger used to keep track of off-the-books payouts by former Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions. Manafort’s name appears 22 times in the ledger.

A March report from The Associated Press further revealed Manafort secretly worked for a Russian oligarch to advance the interests of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. As early as 2005, Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Putin ally Oleg Deripaska to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government,” the AP report continues.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote to Deripaska in a 2005 strategy memo. The effort, he continued, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

In memos, Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, particularly the U.S., to allow oligarchs to retain formerly state-owned assets in Ukraine. He recommended building “long term relationships” with Western journalists and a multitude of measures to improve recruitment, communications, and financial planning by Russian sympathizers in the region.