Manafort and His Ex-associate Surrenders to FBI Over On-going Russia Probe
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Manafort and His Ex-associate Surrenders to FBI Over On-going Russia Probe

Manafort and His Ex-associate Surrenders to FBI Over On-going Russia Probe

Image Attribute: Screengrab is taken from CBS New York's Official Youtube Channel 

The President of United States Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has surrendered to federal authorities in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by associates of Trump.

Manafort arrived at the FBI's Washington field office on October 30. He arrived shortly after The New York Times and CNN, citing unnamed sources, reported that Manafort and a former business associate, Rick Gates, were told to turn themselves into federal authorities. 

A federal grand jury indicted Manafort and Gates, his former business associate, on 12 counts, including charges of money laundering, tax, and foreign lobbying, according to the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The 31-page indictment was unsealed on Monday morning after Manafort and Gates surrendered to federal authorities. “Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income”, the document says. The indictment may be found here.

According to the dispatch sent by a correspondent of The Guardian (based in Moscow) - "The indictment is largely concerned with Manafort’s work in Ukraine, where the consultant became a notorious figure linked with the disgraced regime of Viktor Yanukovych."

Manafort was first engaged by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, a steel magnate from Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine in 2005. Akhmetov was a close ally of Yanukovych, a Donetsk politician friendly to Russia and head of the pro-Russian Party of Regions, which also retained Manafort as a consultant. Yanukovych had won a rigged presidential election in 2004 but was stopped from taking office by the Orange Revolution. Manafort was tasked with giving Yanukovych’s image an overhaul, to make him more appealing to the electorate. In 2010, he won a new election more or less fairly, after receiving image and strategic advice from Manafort. During his time working in Ukraine, Manafort became one of Yanukovych’s most powerful advisers, and also built links with other oligarchs and businessmen from Russia and Ukraine.

Yanukovych, whose rule was marked by rampant corruption in his inner circle, fled to Russia during the Maidan revolution in February 2014. In August last year, an alleged “black ledger” surfaced in Kiev that appeared to show millions of dollars of under-the-table payments to numerous Yanukovych allies, including Manafort.

Ukraine’s National Anticorruption Bureau posted 22 payments to Manafort over a five-year period between 2007 and 2012 with various vague descriptions such as “sociology” or “services”. The payments totaled $12.7m. Manafort said he never received any illegal payments, but the scandal prompted him to resign from Trump’s campaign a few days later.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said in a statement that Manafort and Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts including "conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts."

The charges are the first from the Mueller investigation. The former FBI director was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department's investigation, which is being conducted in parallel with U.S. congressional probes.

The Associated Press, citing unidentified sources it said were familiar with the matter, reported that Gates also turned himself in and that the two were expected in court later on October 30 to face charges brought by Mueller's team. Manafort had been under investigation for possible violations of federal tax law, money laundering, and possible failure to appropriately disclose foreign lobbying.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the charges would include tax fraud. U.S. intelligence officials concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" targeting the 2016 election in the United States, aiming to undermine confidence in U.S. democracy, tarnish the reputation of Trump's rival Hillary Clinton, and help Trump. The charges would be the first from the investigation by Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department's probe.

The White House has declined to comment on the reports. 

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, speaking on the program Fox And Friends shortly before the reports surfaced, shrugged them off. Conway, referring to earlier reports that charges were coming, said - “Whatever happens today with the Mueller investigation, we don’t even know that it has anything to do with the campaign,”

Conway said on Fox and Friends. She repeated that the president believes the investigation is a “hoax” and lamented the fact that Hillary Clinton is still in the news.

Russia denies meddling in the election, despite substantial evidence. Trump, who won the election on November 8, denies there was any collusion between his associates and Moscow. As part of his probe, Mueller has scrutinized Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign as well as his dealings in Ukraine

Manafort stepped down as Trump's election campaign chief in August 2016, following reports about his lobbying work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and failure to register as a foreign agent. He has denied any wrongdoing. Manafort has handed over files to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees for their respective Russia investigations. 

The files reportedly include notes he took during a meeting with Donald Trump Jr., the president's son and a Russian lawyer in June 2016. Reports said e-mails from Trump Jr. show that the meeting was set up to discuss potentially damaging information about Clinton. 

With reporting by The New York Times, Fox News, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, and AFP