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Special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday filed criminal charges against two senior Trump campaign aides and revealed a third pleaded guilty earlier this month.
These are the first charges filed in the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election, though only one involves criminal activity that’s directly related to the campaign itself.
The 9NEWS Verify team broke down what each case involves.
MANAFORT AND GATES INDICTMENT
A case unsealed on Monday reveals a federal grand jury indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates on Oct. 27.
The 12-count indictment states Manafort's crimes started more than a decade ago and continued through last year's election.
Manafort and fellow Trump campaign operative Gates are accused of making millions of dollars by lobbying for pro-Russia causes without registering as required by law with the U.S. government, hiding money overseas, laundering the money, and lying about it to the Department of Justice.
“In total, more than $75,000,000 flowed through the offshore accounts,” according to the indictment. “Manafort laundered more than $18,000,000, which was used by him to buy property, goods, and services in the United States, income that he concealed from the United States Treasury, the Department of Justice, and others. Gates transferred more than $3,000,000 from the offshore accounts to other accounts that he controlled.”
Many of the charges are related to their work for the government of Ukraine which, according to the indictment, started in 2006 – well before the men joined Trump’s campaign.
The president tweeted Monday, "Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign."
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
But his statement is not entirely true.
The indictment said substantial parts of the crimes happened while the men worked for the Trump campaign.
The same month Manafort started his job, in March 2016, investigators said he used a New York property as a way to launder money.
The court documents also say he created a set of false talking points denying lobbying for pro-Russia causes, which was sent on Aug. 17 - the day before he quit as campaign manager.
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Monday afternoon.
Although it is clear these alleged incidents happened while Manafort was working for the campaign, none of them accuse the campaign itself of criminal activity.
However, the other case that became public Monday does directly relate to campaign activity.
PAPADOPOULOS’ GUILTY PLEA
Another case unsealed Monday revealed a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser named George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 for lying to federal agents.
According to a criminal information document, he lied “about the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”
Less than a month after the meeting with candidate Trump, Papadopoulos met the professor again on April 26, 2016, where he learned the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."
Thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee began to leak a few months later.
Although the court documents show unnamed higher-ups in the Trump campaign encouraged Papadopoulos to keep talking to the Russians, the case alone does not prove collusion with Russia.
It also does not speak to how high up in the campaign such Russian involvements might go.
It does, however, tell us two things: special counsel Robert Mueller knows more than the documents disclose, and he now has an informant.
Agents secretly arrested Papadopoulos months ago and stated he is cooperating with the investigation to help them learn more.
The information released Monday signifies a major step forward in the investigation that Trump frequently dismisses as a “witch hunt.”
The case involving Manafort and Gates does not indicate any tie between the charges and the Trump campaign’s activities. However, it does serve as an embarrassment to President Trump, who selected people accused of running a long-standing criminal scheme to run his campaign.
While Papadopoulos’ case does involve campaign activity, the information released to demonstrate his guilt to a judge does not prove collusion—but it does give us clues about where the special counsel is looking.
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