These are the first indictments in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months in 2016, was indicted today as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates, who also worked on the Trump campaign, was also indicted. You can read the full indictment here.
The two men are facing a total of 12 charges that mostly focus on alleged money laundering, failure to disclose their financial assets, and false statements regarding their work for the government of Ukraine and a Ukrainian political party. The indictment alleges that Manafort laundered more than $18 million since 2006.
Manafort ran Trump’s campaign for several months in 2016 (he was fired that August). But today’s indictment does not actually have anything to do with the question of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, and whether any Trump associates played any role in this interference.
Instead, it is almost entirely related to matters predating the 2016 campaign — specifically, over a decade of work Manafort did for foreign interests. The FBI was already investigating Manafort for these matters (specifically, potential money laundering and failure to disclose his foreign work) before Mueller was appointed special counsel in May, and Mueller soon took over that probe.
For months, Mueller has appeared to be zeroing in on Manafort. Back in July, the FBI raided Manafort’s house for documents. There was a report that he’d been wiretapped, and emails revealed that he tried to set up private briefings for a Russian billionaire while chairing Trump’s campaign.
It’s been much speculated that Mueller’s team is hoping to use tough charges to get Manafort to agree to some sort of cooperation deal — to give them more information on the collusion matter (if he has any). That is: They’d hope that he’d flip against Trump, other Trump associates, or potentially Russians, should he have any information incriminating any of them.
Read more: Paul Manafort’s central role in the Trump-Russia investigation, explained