Today, shortly after former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates entered his guilty plea to the new charges brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, the new charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were unsealed.
These particular charges were filed several weeks ago, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.
The charges and this investigation certainly seem to be morphing into something broader.
The latest indictment accuses Manafort, with Gates’s help, of secretly retaining a group of former senior European politicians to take positions that were favorable to Ukraine as part of their illegal lobbying work for Kiev’s government. That work included lobbying in the United States.
“Although the former politicians would appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine,” the indictment says.
From the offshore accounts maintained by Manafort, he wired over $2 million in payment to those politicians, according to the charges in the indictment.
The new indictment also lists the previous charges pertaining to the work Manafort and Gates did for pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Yanukovych.
The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates concealed their scheme to avoid registering as a foreign agent in the United States by providing a “false and misleading” statement to two unnamed lobbying firms they retained. They allegedly stated that the European organization they worked with in their lobbying work was not linked or funded in any way by a foreign government.
The organization, known as the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, “was created in or about 2012 in Belgium as a mouthpiece for Yanukovych and the Party of Regions,” his political party, the indictment says.
In the paperwork, those firms used by Manafort and Gates are listed as Company A and Company B. There’s no confirmation, but the belief is that those companies are actually the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs.
When Gates chose to plead guilty today, it was to a single count of lying to FBI agents, and a single count of conspiracy against the United States. With his plea, he is free to work with Mueller, so this has widely been seen as signaling that he’ll be rolling over on Manafort.
Both Manafort and Gates initially entered please of not guilty.
The new indictment removes charges against Gates. It accuses Manafort on five counts: conspiracy against the United States; conspiracy to launder money; failing to register as a foreign agent; making false and misleading statements related to the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA; and making false statements to U.S. officials.
Manafort is maintaining his innocence, and he most definitely was not prepared to hear that his former business partner had apparently cut some kind of deal with special counsel.
In a statement released on Friday, Manafort seemed pretty undone.
“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me,” Manafort said.
Gates actually gave a statement, basically saying that it was better for his family, in the long term, for him to take the deal offered to him by Mueller.