Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates turned themselves in to federal authorities on Monday morning after being indicted on 12 charges related to money laundering in connection with political consulting work they did in Ukraine from 2006 to 2015.
These were the first indictments issued in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Manafort was the de facto head of President Donald Trump’s campaign for a brief, two-month period — from June 20, 2016, until August 19 — when he was ousted after stories surfaced in the media about his work on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Manafort and Rick Gates, who also turned himself in on Monday morning, are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, and failure to register as foreign agents.
The indictment alleges that they funneled millions of dollars in payments for their consulting work in Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus and other countries. A total of $75 million passed through the accounts, according to the indictment, $18 million of which went to Manafort to buy property and other goods in the U.S.
“In furtherance of the scheme, Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income,” the prosecutors wrote.
The indictment says that Gates transferred $3 million from the offshore accounts to accounts he controlled.
Manafort was seen with his attorney walking in the front door of a federal building in Washington, D.C., early Monday morning to be processed. Rick Gates was to be processed separately, according to reports, and both Manafort and Gates will be taken to federal district court in Washington for a first appearance before a judge. Both are expected to plead “not guilty.”
Manafort’s arrest comes three months after the FBI executed a “no-knock warrant” at his condo in Alexandria, Virginia, just after 6 a.m. on July 26 with guns drawn. Agents reportedly kicked down the bedroom door and remained in the home for several hours. Manafort’s friend Roger Stone said later that Manafort and his wife had been in bed at the time of the raid, that both were searched, and that the agents left the home with documents that Manafort’s attorney had provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee the day before, when Manafort had testified to the committee behind closed doors.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to head the investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign in May.
It’s unclear what the indictments of Manafort and Gates have to do with alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Manafort is a longtime Republican political consultant who worked on Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign and then opened a political consulting firm with Roger Stone, Charlie Black, and Democrat Peter Kelly. The firm’s clients included President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, along with several U.S. senators and also foreign governments.
Manafort had not been involved in recent political campaigns in the U.S., and said in interviews after joining the Trump campaign in March that he’d spent little time in the Washington, D.C., area in the past 10 years.
When Manafort began working on the campaign, Trump had just lost the Wisconsin Republican primary to Ted Cruz, and was in danger of not going to the convention in July with enough delegates to avoid a floor fight.
Manafort is credited with ensuring that Trump secured the nomination on the first ballot at the convention and preventing an Establishment coup that could have resulted in the Republican nomination’s going to another candidate.
He became the de facto chairman of the campaign in June, after Corey Lewandoski was fired, and was himself fired two months later, and replaced by Kellyanne Conway, who managed the last stage of the campaign along with Steve Bannon.
(photo credit, homepage image: Paul Manafort, CC BY-ND 2.0, by Disney | ABC Television Group; photo credit, article image: George Stephanopoulos, Paul Manafort, CC BY-ND 2.0, by Disney | ABC Television Group