Robert Mueller, special counsel appointed by Deputy General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the Russia investigation, indicted Paul Manafort and Richard Gates on Monday this week. Manafort and Gates were Trump campaign aides during last year's presidential election. The indictments were also revealed with the news that Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia earlier this month.
The 12-count indictment of Manafort and Gates included charges of conspiracy to launder money, making false statements, and other various crimes in connection with both mens' ties to Russia. FBI agents raided Manafort's home earlier this summer and seized documents and other tax and foreign banking materials.
Earlier this year, Mueller took over the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the United States presidential election and whether Trump's campaign was involved. Mueller's appointment followed the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The indictment alleges Manafort hid millions in offshore bank accounts he was paid for his work as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. Manafort denies these charges. Gates received the same charges for allegedly helping Manafort hide the money.
Although Manafort and Gates were both campaign aides for President Trump, the indictment charges don't directly implicate the president or the campaign. Trump has already weighed in by insisting that the activity attributed to Manafort and Gates took place years ago and no collusion occurred during the presidential election.
As for Papadopoulos, he has been charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Papadopoulos allegedly tried to set up a meeting with Russian officials after discovering they had "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos pled guilty and has been cooperating with the investigation. Unlike Manafort and Gates, Papadopoulos' charges are directly related to the Trump campaign.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to distance Papadopoulos' charges from the president, claiming Papadopoulos had a limited volunteer role in Trump's campaign and he never acted in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign. But, Mueller's investigation has only just begun; and the information Papadopoulos provides could lead to further charges.
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