By Zach Sobol
The independent investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller charged three Trump campaign officials on Monday, Oct. 30, according to The New York Times.
Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign adviser Rick Gates were indicted of 12 counts of financial crimes, according to CNN. Both pleaded not guilty.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” President Donald Trump tweeted in response to the news.
Manafort and Gates are accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars for their work in Ukraine, then hiding that income by laundering money through domestic and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts, according to CNN.
More than $75 million went through offshore accounts, according to CNN.
Manafort and Gates were in charge of a campaign lobbying for the United States on behalf of the Ukraine government and were legally required to report their income, according to CNN. Both failed to comply and allegedly lied to the Justice Department about it.
Manafort and Gates were also charged with lying about millions in payments from foreign governments, tax fraud and conspiracy against the United States, according to TIME.
“These are incredibly serious charges, and suggest a longstanding and pervasive pattern of reckless illegality on the part of someone who was instrumental in the Trump campaign, and who should’ve known better,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal contributor and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
Many legal experts see the indictment of Manafort and Gates as a warning for others who have lied to the special counsel, according to CNN.
The charges of Manafort and Gates do not imply collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The same is not true of Trump’s former foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his connection to Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor linked to Russian government officials. Mifsud promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to The New York Times.
“(The Russians) have dirt on her … they have thousands of emails,” Mifsud said, according to The Guardian.
Over the course of two months, Papadopoulos met with Mifsud four times, according to The Guardian.
Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a Russian official that connects western academics with Putin.
“George didn’t understand the Russian internal political landscape well,” Timofeev told The Guardian.
Instead of contacting the FBI, Papadopoulos communicated with the Trump campaign about his progress with Mifsud.
An unnamed Trump campaign supervisor had told Papadopoulos that Trump’s campaign wanted a better relationship with Russia, according to The Guardian.
The FBI interviewed Papadopoulos twice, The Guardian reported.
Papadopoulos downplayed his connections to the Russian government to the FBI, according to The Guardian. He hid extensive email threads, changed his cellphone number and deleted his Facebook account.
Papadopoulos pleading guilty is the closest thing to proof that the Trump campaign was involved with the Russian government to affect the 2016 election to come out of the investigation thus far.