FBI’s first blows: Trump campaign boss charged; aide flips into Russia witness

Manafort and Gates plead not guilty to all charges

FBI’s first blows: Trump campaign boss charged; aide flips into Russia witness

The Russia investigation struck its first blows against Donald Trump’s presidency in a one-two punch Monday: his former campaign manager was arrested on numerous charges, and a lower-level adviser has admitted to communicating with intermediaries of the Putin government about stolen emails, has pleaded guilty to lying about it, and is now co-operating with authorities.

The day began with ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort surrendering to authorities as he and another senior campaign aide were slapped with a dozen criminal charges, including conspiracy against the United States; money-laundering; failing to register as a foreign agent; and lying to police.

The president seized on the fact that most of the alleged crimes occurred before he announced his presidential run in 2015: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” he tweeted. ”Why aren’t Crooked Hillary (Clinton) & the (Democrats) the focus?????”

A moment later, the next shoe dropped.

A subsequent announcement from special investigator Robert Mueller’s office was about events that indeed occurred during the campaign, that did pertain to contacts with Russia, and specifically involved conversations about high-ranking officials and illicitly obtained Hillary Clinton emails.

The office announced that a foreign-policy campaign adviser to Trump was arrested three months ago, confessed this month as part of a plea deal, and is now co-operating with federal authorities as part of the expanding probe.

“Special counsel Mueller appears to have a co-operating witness,” tweeted former New York prosecutor Preet Bharara, recently fired by Trump.

“That is significant. Time will tell how significant.”

That witness is George Papadopoulos.

He has pleaded guilty to lying to police about events from the spring of 2016. They involved communications with a Russian professor with high-ranking ties to the Putin government, and with a woman he described in an email as “(Vladimir) Putin’s niece.”

Papadopoulos held meetings in Europe and repeatedly communicated with these people. Some of the communications involved setting up a Trump visit to Moscow in the hope of improving U.S.-Russia relations.

But some involved more shadowy political co-operation.

Papadopoulos said the professor offered to deliver dirt collected by Russians on Clinton in the form of emails — several months before sites like Wikileaks began mass-releasing emails that upended the American election.

According to the settlement sheet released Monday, Papadopoulos said: “(The Russians) have dirt on her,” and “the Russians had emails of Clinton,” and ”they have thousands of emails.”

It is unclear from the settlement document what emails he was referring to — whether they might be unreleased messages from Clinton’s time at the State Department, other personal emails, or the ones ultimately released months later by Wikileaks, belonging to the Democratic party and to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

The 14-page statement concludes with a cryptic line that portends potential storms ahead: “Following his arrest (on July 27, 2017), defendant Papadopoulos met with the government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

Legal observers believe he might now try to flip Trump’s former campaign chair. Manafort and fellow senior campaign aide Richard Gates were hauled in by the FBI early Monday after being charged with 12 crimes.

Those two have pleaded not guilty.

Manafort is accused of allegedly laundering $18 million into the U.S., from work on behalf of the pro-Russia faction in Ukrainian politics, and of using more than three dozen shell companies to avoid paying taxes on this money, based in Cyprus and elsewhere.

He allegedly used the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle that included purchases of more than $1 million in antique rugs, and more than $1 million in clothing at stores in New York and Beverly Hills.

Manafort also worked as an unregistered lobbyist for a foreign power through 2014, authorities allege. It is illegal to work in the U.S. as a lobbyist for foreign interests without filing disclosure forms.

Furthermore, he and his co-defendant conspired in November 2016 and February 2017 to lie to federal investigators, according to the indictment sheet.

The 31-page indictment sheet appears to suggest one way federal investigators can exert pressure on Manafort to talk. It concludes by stating that if Manafort is convicted on these charges, he could be forced to forfeit his assets — which include four houses, and one life-insurance policy.

Manafort was released on bail, and placed under house arrest, for $10 million.

The White House played down the developments as a non-event.

A spokeswoman for Trump noted that the allegations against Manafort date back years. As for the low-level aide, she said Papadopoulos’ legal troubles don’t involve political collusion with Russia, but stem from his lying to police.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: ”It has to do with his failure to tell the truth. That doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign’s activities.” She called Papadopoulos a low-level volunteer acting on his own.

In recent days, Trump and his supporters have launched a pre-emptive strike on the special prosecutor. They have aggressively pushed for prosecutors to shift the focus of the Russia investigation onto Hillary Clinton, and cast aspersions on Mueller.

That was reflected in the tone of coverage from friendly news outlets. Fox News covered Monday’s developments less extensively than other cable outlets, and took a shot at Robert Mueller in a segment Monday titled: “Credibility In Question.”

Democrats warned the president to leave the prosecutor alone.

”The president must not, under any circumstances, in any way, interfere,” said Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer. ”If he does, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues and the truth, the whole truth, comes out.”

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly said Manafort and Gates had pleaded guilty.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read