Trump's former campaign chief faces 12 charges

AFP
Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was yesterday charged with conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.
AFP

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was yesterday charged with conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. It was the first indictment stemming from a sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort, 68, and business partner Rick Gates, 45, were charged with allegedly hiding millions of dollars they earned working for former Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow political party.

Special counsel Robert Mueller announced the charges, the first against any close former Trump aides arising from a probe into possible collusion in Russia’s effort to tilt last year’s election in Trump’s favor.

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work,” the indictment states.

“In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 to at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts,” it added.

In all, Manafort and Gates were hit with 12 charges of conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements and failure to report offshore bank accounts.

Manafort and an unidentified man were caught by television cameras walking into the FBI’s Washington field office around 8:15am to surrender.

On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter as speculation mounted charges were about to drop, calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and repeating denials that his White House campaign colluded with Russia.

Manafort was among the participants of a meeting at Trump Tower last year with a Kremlin-linked lawyer that raised suspicions of collusion between the campaign and Moscow.

The meeting was arranged by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr, in the hope of receiving damaging information on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate.

The indictment made no mention of Russian involvement in the US campaign, however, focusing instead on Manafort’s earlier Ukrainian ties.

A long-time political operative and consultant, Manafort was recruited in March 2016 to round up pro-Trump delegates to the Republican Party convention.

With the Mueller investigation entering a dramatic new phase, Republican officials and conservative media have stepped up attacks on Democrats — especially Clinton — though opponents are dismissing the accusations as blatant attempts to divert attention.

In his tweets on Sunday, Trump again complained of Clinton’s handling of e-mails while secretary of state, of Democratic Party funding of what he said was a “fake” dossier on Trump’s background, and of a US sale during the Obama administration of uranium rights to Russia.

“There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” he tweeted.

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