The former campaign manager for US President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiracy against the United States as part of the Russia inquiry.
Manafort arrived at the FBI’s Washington field office on Monday morning and surrendered to federal law enforcement authorities.
The 68-year-old is facing a total of 12 charges, which also include conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) statements and violating federal lobbying and banking laws.
The charges stem from the investigation of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election.
Manafort’s former colleague and longtime business associate Rick Gates is facing the same charges. Gates, 45, also surrendered to federal authorities.
Manafort and Gates appeared in federal district court in Washington after turning themselves in earlier in the day. The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against them.
Manafort ran the Trump campaign from June to August of 2016, and served as his deputy on the campaign. He had resigned amid allegations that he received millions of dollars in illegal payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Gates has been a business partner of Manafort for a long time and allegedly has ties to the same Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.
American intelligence agencies claimed in January that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to try to help then Republican candidate Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence agencies said Moscow’s interference included a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.
Mueller, a former director of the FBI, is investigating whether Trump election officials cooperated with those Russian efforts.
Sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation said he has used his broad authority to investigate links between Trump associates and foreign governments, as well as to determine whether the president or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and has condemned the investigations. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also denied the allegations.
Mueller was appointed by the US Justice Department to lead the probe a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a federal investigation into possible Russia collusion.
Trump has denounced the federal investigation led by Mueller as a “witch hunt.”
Just two days after reports that a grand jury approved the first charges in the investigation, Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the probe, as well as the Democratic Party.
“Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia, collusion, which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics
,” Trump said.
He also said it was not a coincidence that news
surrounding Mueller’s investigation was surfacing at the same time Republicans were pushing tax reform.
“All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform,” Trump tweeted.