On February 22, the investigative team led by special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed a series of new indictments against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as his protégé Rick Gates. The documents, bringing the total number of charges up to 32, mainly concern crimes such as bank or tax fraud, as well as suspicious connections to the Ukrainian government. In the document, Mr. Mueller reveals that both Manafort and Gates “acted as unregistered agents of a foreign government and foreign political parties”, specifically pro-Russian Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych. Manafort and Gates reportedly earned tens of millions of dollars as a result of their political work in Ukraine, which they then hid from U.S. authorities by failing “to pay taxes on this income by disguising it as alleged ‘loans’ from nominee offshore corporate entities”.
Once President Yanukovych was removed from power and fled to Russia, Manafort and Gates turned to U.S. real estate as a means of adding to their already exorbitant wealth. As the court document details, the two men used Manafort’s multiple properties across the Eastern seaboard as collateral in order to acquire loans from various financial institutions. Furthermore, on several occasions Paul Manafort lied to U.S. officials about his ownership of foreign companies and bank accounts in a multitude of countries, such as the Seychelles and Cyprus. The document goes on to include a comprehensive list of both domestic and foreign entities that Manafort and Gates controlled as part of their schemes, as well as details on financial transactions and income they repeatedly failed to disclose to U.S. authorities.
Manafort has so far resisted the investigation, even attempting to sue Robert Mueller for charging him with crimes unrelated to the Russia investigation. According to the New York Times, he “asked a federal judge to reject Mr. Mueller’s appointment as overly broad and to dismiss the indictment against him”. Rick Gates, on the other hand, pled guilty to fraud and lying to the investigators on the afternoon of February 23rd, in a clear sign that he is willing to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for a plea deal. Mr. Gates follows in the footsteps of two more former Trump campaign officials who have buckled under pressure from Mueller’s investigation, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. Although Mr. Manafort continues to plead innocence, his protégé could reveal further first-hand details about the crimes charged against them. This would, as the Times reports, constitute “a potential blow to [Manafort’s] defense strategy”. Either way, Robert Mueller doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
For more on this:
The New York Times, “Rick Gates, Trump Campaign Aide, Pleads Guilty in Mueller Inquiry and Will Cooperate”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/us/politics/rick-gates-guilty-plea-mueller-investigation.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
The New York Times, “Mueller Files New Fraud Charges Against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/paul-manafort-new-charges-mueller.html
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