Russia probe: Manafort, Gates plead not guilty, placed on house arrest

By Ed Adamczyk and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Oct. 30, 2017 at 9:10 PM
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Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge placed Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager, and former business associate Rick Gates under house arrest Monday after they pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy against the United States.

A 31-page indictment released earlier in the day charges Manafort and Gates with conspiracy, money laundering, tax fraud, failure to file reports of foreign financial assets, serving as an unregistered foreign agent and giving false and misleading statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Also Monday, court documents showed another Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Manafort and Gates appeared in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and pleaded not guilty to all charges, The New York Times and CNBC reported.

Prosecutors said the two men were flight risks but they didn't request they be jailed, Bloomberg reported. Manafort was required to post a $10 million bond and Gates $5 million in order to be released under house arrest.

Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, addressed the charges after the hearing outside the federal courthouse.

"President Donald Trump was correct," he said. "There is no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russia government."

Downing called the FARA-related charges a "novel theory," saying the federal government has charged six people with the crime since 1966, resulting in one conviction.

Kevin Downing, Paul Manafort's lawyer, speaks to the media after leaving the Federal District Court where Manafort pleaded not guilty. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

They are the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump responded to the news with two Twitter messages on Monday, calling for a investigation of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said "most" of the alleged crimes took place before the 2016 campaign and that they had nothing to do with the campaign. She also distanced the administration from Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty to making false statements during an interview with the FBI about his interactions with Russians linked to the Kremlin.

"Through his false statements and omissions, defendant ... impeded the FBI's ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the campaign and the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election," the document said.

Sanders said Papadopoulos' involvement with the Trump campaign "was extremely limited" and described it as a "volunteer position." She said he only met with the campaign once as part of an advisory council.

"No activity was ever done in an official capacity," she said.

A federal grand jury approved charges in the investigation Friday, and a federal judge ordered the indictment for Manafort and Gates sealed until Monday.

Mueller, the former FBI director, has been investigating any potential election involvement by the Kremlin since May. As special counsel, he has the power to issue subpoenas and prosecute federal crimes in connection with his mandate. Trump has the power to fire Mueller, but said in August that he would not. Sanders on Monday said that is still the plan.

"There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel," she said, adding that the White House expects Mueller's investigation to be over soon.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California on Monday called for "an outside, fully independent investigation to expose Russia's meddling in our election and the involvement of Trump officials."

"Defending the integrity of our democracy demands that Congress look forward to counter Russian aggression and prevent future meddling with our elections," she said.

Manafort resigned as Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016 after a Ukrainian government corruption probe found Manafort received nearly $13 million from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. In June 2017, when Manafort registered as a foreign agent, he reported an income of $17 million from the Ukraine's Party of Regions.

Within the first month of Trump's presidency, U.S. intelligence agencies said they were investigating intercepted phone calls between Manafort and Russian intelligence agents. Manafort said he didn't realize they were intelligence agents.

Manafort also was one of eight people in attendance at a June 2016 meeting between the president's son Donald Trump Jr. and Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The meeting was arranged after Trump Jr. learned that she had damaging information from the Russian government regarding Democratic Party candidate Clinton.

Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in July, but the committee dropped its subpoena after he spoke with members of the Senate intelligence committee and provided documents on July 25.

While the White House said there is "zero anxiety" about what might be in the sealed testimony, Trump earlier said on Twitter, "The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics."

Monday morning, Trump said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., said Sunday Trump has not been informed that he is under investigation.

"No one has told him that he is. He's been cooperating fully with the special counsel's office," he told CBS News.

The charges come during a busy week in Washington, D.C. -- in which Trump leaves for Asia and is expected to name a new Federal Reserve chairman nominee. The House is also expected to provide details of its tax reform plan on Wednesday.

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