Trump's former campaign manager charged with fraud over Ukraine dealings
Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former presidential election campaign manager, has been charged with "conspiracy against the United States" over his business dealings with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates have denied 12 charges, including conspiracy to launder money. The charges came following an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia's alleged interference in the US election.
The indictment by Mueller said Gates and Manafort acted as "unregistered agents" of Ukraine's pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his party from 2006 to 2015. In 2014, Yanukovych was deposed as president. Manafort allegedly laundered over $18 million through offshore accounts which he used to "enjoy a lavish lifestyle" in America. Gates has been accused of transferring $3 million to his offshore bank accounts.
Both Manafort and Gates had surrendered to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Manafort was released on a $10 million bond while Gates -- $5 million, following which both were placed under house arrest. None of the charges pertain the Trump campaign.
Trump tweeted that the charges against Manafort are from "years ago before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign." The charges relate to dealings from 2016 and 2017. Trump said there "is no COLLUSION!" between his campaign and Russia. The White House said Manafort's case "has nothing to do with the president, the president's campaign or campaign activity."
For Trump, the good news is that the charges against Manafort pertain to his business dealings, not campaign activity. However, Manafort would be under increased pressure to cooperate with the Mueller investigation and could provide important information regarding the campaign. The BBC's Anthony Zurcher wrote, "this could be just the first domino to fall."