Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort turned himself in on Monday after the FBI indicted him on 12 counts.
Manafort worked as Trump’s campaign manager for just under six months before he was replaced by Kellyanne Conway in August 2016. The charges against him include conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, false and misleading FARA statements, and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
These are the first charges to come out of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats are calling it a “turning point” in the investigation, despite the fact that the indictments do not mention Trump or his campaign.
The Russia investigation has laid bare Manafort’s past business dealings, including work he did on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Manafort was among those present at the infamous “Trump Tower meeting” in 2016, and you can guess how his ‘suspicious’ overseas lobbying efforts are now being interpreted.
The 31-page indictment accuses Manafort and his business partner, Richard Gates, of laundering more than $20 million they received for representing the pro-Russian government of Ukraine and the Party of Regions (the political party associated with exiled former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych).
This operation allegedly took place up until 2014, but the money laundering continued to take place through 2016, when Manafort worked for Trump. Manafort and Gates both pleaded “not guilty” on Monday, but turned themselves in when asked to do so by federal authorities.
“The chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign and his deputy have been charged with conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, and making false statements – all related to their work to promote a pro-Putin regime,” said DNC Chairman Tom Perez.
“You have to look at this event today as possibly a down payment on a much bigger story. This is – the way prosecutors work, especially if they’re facing some kind of deadline, you can file charges and then do a superseding indictment and add additional charges.”
President Trump has expressed frustration with the news surrounding Manafort and the Russia investigation, claiming the headlines are being used to distract from tax reform efforts.
“All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform,” wrote Trump on Twitter. “Is this coincidental? NOT!”
Lawmakers have warned Trump not to interfere with the indictments or the investigation in any way.