WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business associate, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to all charges after Monday being been indicted by a federal grand jury.
The charges are connected to the investigation into potential Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. But as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, even though Manafort served as Trump’s campaign chairman, the administration said the indictment against him has nothing to do with Trump.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump handed out Halloween treats at the White House just hours after learning of the indictments.
“Those activities ended in 2014, two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign,” said Manafort attorney Kevin Downing.
“The allegations in the indictment, though, are focused on their business activities – not campaign activities, not campaign events,” added Trump attorney Jay Seculow.
A 31-page, 12-count indictment charges Manafort and Gates with conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading Foreign Agents Registration Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Manafort covered his face as he left his home in Virginia before the 68-year-old arrived at the FBI field office in Washington to surrender to authorities.
“Mr. Manafort has no comment,” his lawyer told reporters.
Gates also turned himself in to the FBI on Monday morning.
The indictment alleges Manafort and Gates hid their work as agents of the Ukrainian government and its political parties and tried to cover up millions of dollars they made from that work.
According to the indictment, this conspiracy began in 2006 and lasted through 2017.
Manafort was campaign chairman for Trump from March 2016 to August 2016.
Manafort’s dealings in the Ukraine came under scrutiny because of his ties to Russian oligarchs connected to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After the charges were announced, Trump tweeted that the alleged misdeeds by his former campaign chairman were “years ago” and insists there was “NO COLLUSION” between his 2016 campaign and Russia.
The White House also distanced Trump from the charges, saying “most” of the alleged activities took place before the 2016 campaign.
“There are no activities or official capacity in which the Trump campaign was engaged in any of these activities, most of them took place well before the campaign ever even existed,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity…. We’ve been saying from day one there’s been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all.”
But Sanders said it “has everything to do” with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a research firm that produced the dossier of allegations about Trump’s ties to the Kremlin.
These are the first charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election effort.
“What the Clinton campaign did; what the DNC did, was actually exchange money. They took a meeting,” Sanders said. “Those are far different – and one is pretty common practice in any campaign to take a meeting. The other one is actually paying money for false information. That’s a big deal and a big difference.”
Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) also said there remains no evidence of the Trump campaign having colluded with Russia.
“I’m on the Intelligence Committee. We’re investigating the whole issue of Russian collusion, and after one year of investigation, so far, I’m not aware of any evidence whatsoever showing any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or any Russian operatives,” King said.
These were the first charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election effort.
Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department’s investigation.
“It adds a substantial layer of complexity, I think. Just the Ukraine and Russia connection could add months and months to this investigation,” said former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko.
Mueller’s office also revealed Monday that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to Trump during the campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
The Washington Post reported in August that Papadopoulos sent an email to Trump campaign officials in March 2016 offering to set up a meeting with Russian leadership, including Putin.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to one count of lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials.
He has now admitted to lying about the FBI about communications he had with officials from Russia, including one who promised emails with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
“It’s OK to talk to Russians. It’s not OK to get help from a foreign government when it comes to your campaign from either side,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). “So we’ll see where this goes.”
Papadopoulos is the first person to face criminal charges that cite interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Papadopoulos was a member of the campaign’s foreign policy team, but Trump aides have said he played a limited role in the campaign and no access to Trump.
When asked about the guilty plea Sanders said Papadopoulos was a “volunteer.”
But U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) is among those who say the guilty plea from Papadopoulos could haunt Trump. Papadopoulos, 30, was appointed last year to Trump’s national security team.
“It’s very compelling evidence that points towards collusion,” Blumenthal said.
Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said that members of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee specifically, John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Shultz, should re-testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in light of new revelations regarding a dossier alleging President Trump’s connections to Russia.
“They absolutely need to be recalled,” Collins said. “It’s difficult to imagine that a campaign chairman, that the head of the DNC would not know of an expenditure of this magnitude and significance. But perhaps there’s something more going on here. But certainly it’s worth additional questioning of those two witnesses.”
In the meantime Monday, Sanders aid Trump has said he will not fire special counsel Mueller. Democrats said he had better not.
“The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) “If he does, Congress must respond.”
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also weighed in on the indictments Monday. He praised the investigation and noted that the vast majority of members of Congress believe Mueller is a man of integrity.
“The evidence is now overwhelming that Russia interfered in the last election, and in doing that, is undermining American democracy,” Sanders said. “And what special counsel Mueller’s task is, is to find out whether or not the Trump administration was in collusion with people in Russia.”
Sanders added that he hopes Trump “understands that he will not interfere or try to obstruct this investigation.”
A judge set bond for Manafort at $10 million Monday, and for Gates $5 million. Both have surrendered their passports.
They will be under home confinement and may not leave their homes without permission.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)