By Rebecca Stokem, National News Writer
On Monday, October 30, special counsel Robert Mueller announced charges against three advisors and representatives of the Trump presidential campaign: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. Manafort, the former campaign chair, surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday morning, and pleaded not guilty to charges stating he laundered $18 million from overseas accounts. Gates was also included in the charges, and turned himself in as well. The indictment includes twelve charges in total, including Conspiracy against the United States.
The case against Manafort stems from his and Gates’ time lobbying in 2006 for a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine. The indictment describes Manafort and Gates as “unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine,” and that they concealed this information from the U.S. government, along with the millions of dollars they laundered through offshore accounts. According to the indictment and multiple news sources, Manafort spent millions of dollars on personal luxury items. According to the New York Times, he spent $5.5 million on home improvement projects in the Hamptons, $1.3 million on clothing, $3 million on a Brownstone in Brooklyn, and $2.8 million on a condominium in SoHo. These charges could potentially send Manafort to prison for 20 years.
The more politically detrimental information relevant to the Trump campaign, however, has come from Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy advisor. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI earlier this year, and is reported to be cooperating with investigators. Court documents from Monday stated that back in April 2016, Russian intelligence had used intermediaries to get in touch with Papadopoulos in order to offer inflammatory information about Hillary Clinton in the form of emails. This contact between Russian agents and Papadopoulos lead to the latter meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, where the Russian government offered to help Mr. Trump’s campaign efforts. Back in March of the same year, he had also met with a diplomacy professor in London with ties to the Russian government, who was interested in Papadopoulos’ connection to the campaign.
Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing called the charge against his client “ridiculous,” and reminded the court that Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying “ended in 2014, two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign.” Papadopoulos’ lawyers declined to comment on the situation. The White House described Papadopoulos as minimally involved in the campaign, however personal emails, texts, Facebook messages, and Skype records say otherwise, all of which the FBI seized as part of its investigation. Mr. Mueller has taken an assertive position on this investigation. Though the charges against Manafort do not directly relate to Russian meddling, his indictment shows how broad Mueller’s investigation is stretching, and raises the question of who will be charged next among those in direct contact with the administration.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.
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