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Paul Manafort: Donald Trump’s former aides charged with conspiracy against US & money laundering

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WASHINGTON: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates turned themselves in to the FBI in Washington DC on Monday after they were charged in a 12-count indictment including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and making false statements in course of a federal probe into the Trump campaign’s purported Russian ties.

The indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and a guilty plea of another Trump aide for making false statements to the FBI in its Russia probe — rocked the US capital on what quickly came to be hashtagged #ManafortMonday. Speculation raged about how close the flames would get to President Trump and his family, considering this is said to be the initial stages of the probe into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Much of Monday’s indictment related to Manafort’s consorting with Ukrainian proxies of Russia unrelated to the US elections, and as such there was nothing to directly or immediately implicate the US President or his campaign. Trump sought to distance himself from the charges, tweeting, ”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?????” In a second tweet, he insisted ”….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Trump and his surrogates have long distanced themselves from Manafort, and that tactic continued on Monday with arguments from his supporters that the President had little to do with the indicted men, who had been associated only briefly with the Trump campaign, and who had been sidelined as soon their dodgy track record became apparent.

”These guys were bad guys when they started, they were bad guys when they left,” one White House aide was quoted as saying.

But even as the President’s aides were brushing off ManafortMonday, it emerged that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, pled guilty to making false statements to FBI agents ”about the timing, extent and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”

Papadopoulus is said to have ”falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed ‘dirt’ related to emails” concerning Hillary Clinton – a charge that could potentially bring the flames of the Russia probe closer to the President. Democrat activists and supporters also bore down on the President, arguing that if Manafort colluded with Russia as head of the Trump campaign, representing Candidate Trump, ”then Trump would have ‘known or should have known’ (the common legal lingo in a conspiracy), of the collusion, making him also guilty in the conspiracy.”

”It’s poetic irony that the chairman of the campaign that violated our democratic norms to chant, “lock her up!” is now in federal shackles,” sneered one Democrat on Twitter.

Federal prosecutors typically have a high conviction rate and Democrats seem confident that Manafort will be put away. Trump’s hashtag of #MAGA (for Make American Great Again) was derided by Democrats and liberals on Twitter as ”Many Are Getting Arrested”.

But Republican surrogates maintained that indictment is for alleged criminal activities BEFORE Manafort joined the Trump campaign, and there could or should be indictments for Hillary Clinton and her managers – a line of argument Trump himself has pushed.

”All of this “Russia” talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!” Trump said at the start of a Twitter fusillade on Sunday.

”Never seen such Republican Anger and Unity as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), 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,” he continued.

”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 before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out,” he added.

”DO SOMETHING!” he finally urged – it was not clear to whom.

Meanwhile, the Manafort indictment charges him with moving $75 million through offshore accounts, $18 million of which it says benefited him personally. The former Trump campaign manager was also indicted on four counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, while Gates was indicted on three counts of the same.

The money in question allegedly came from Ukraine’s Party of Regions, the Russia-backed outfit of former prime minister Victor Yanukovych who paid Manafort to lobby American politicians on behalf of his administration. The complaint alleges that Manafort, who was not registered as a foreign agent, took steps to ”develop a false and misleading cover story” that would conceal his work for the Party of Regions in order to distance himself from the Government of Ukraine.

”Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads, proposing that the government seize four of Manafort’s real estate properties as well as his life insurance policy.

Manafort, a veteran Republican strategist, joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 to boost the campaign. Trump soon promoted him to chairman and chief strategist, and he ran the Trump show at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Updated: October 31, 2017 — 2:18 am

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