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.

Just Posted

The log retaining wall that supports the access road to the Ladysmith Community Marina is failing and needs to be replaced. (Cole Schisler photo)
Remediation work for community marina access road expected to be costly

A log retaining wall between the access road and the parking area is failing and must be replaced

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Ladysmith Harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water harbour, none of them threatening

More and more graffiti has appeared in Ladysmith’s downtown core during the pandemic. (Cole Schisler photo)
Council creates rebate program to encourage graffiti clean up

Property owners can receive up to $50 to help fund graffiti removal

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

Most Read