Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been hit with new charges as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election continues.
Manafort and Rick Gates, his business associate, were originally indicted in October on multiple counts that included conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and making false statements.
Nearly four months later, on Feb. 22, the pair was hit with additional tax evasion and bank fraud charges. The additional charges involve much of the same conduct Manafort and Gates were initially charged with, but it increases the amount of money Manafort, 68, is accused of laundering to $30 million.
The charges against Manafort and Gates don’t relate to any allegations of misconduct during Trump’s campaign. They pleaded not guilty to the initial charges.
Manafort has been the subject of a longstanding investigation over his dealings in Ukraine several years ago – for which he didn’t file as a foreign agent until June. But Mueller has incorporated that investigation into his own probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates.
What kind of foreign work did Manafort do?
A GOP operative who worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Manafort reportedly began his work in Republican politics in the 1970s.
Eventually, Manafort was hired by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a controversial pro-Russia politician who was ousted from power twice. After Yanukovych was elected president in 2010, Manafort reportedly stayed on as an adviser and worked with other projects in Eastern Europe, including the Party of Regions political party.
Manafort also worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In 2005, Manafort allegedly came up with a plan to influence U.S. politics, business dealings and the media in order to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according to The Associated Press.
Deripaska is a close Vladimir Putin ally and signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006. They maintained a business relationship until at least 2009.
Financial records obtained by The New York Times indicated that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests by up to $17 million prior to joining Trump’s campaign.
He also took more than a dozen trips to Moscow and frequently talked to Putin allies for about 10 years, McClatchy reported. He traveled to Kiev at least 19 times in 20 months after the February 2014 removal of Ukraine’s pro-Russia leader.
How was Manafort involved with Trump’s campaign?
Manafort joined then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign in March 2016 to help wrangle delegates ahead of the Republican National Convention in Ohio, something he successfully did for former President Gerald Ford.
Just two months later, Manafort became Trump’s campaign chairman.
Manafort’s resignation from the campaign was announced on August 19, 2016, after the New York Times reported that he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party between 2007 and 2012.
Along with Donald Jr., Trump’s elder son, Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016. She reportedly was said to have damaging information on Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
What has the White House said?
Manafort’s alleged actions took place before he joined the Trump campaign, the president said on social media.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has also downplayed Manafort’s involvement with the campaign in a press briefing.
Could he help investigators discover if Trump associates colluded with Russia?
Mueller took over the criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings as he looks into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the White House.
Manafort has turned over documents to congressional committees investigating election interference. Committee leaders have also been in talks with Manafort.
Manafort’s house was raided last summer by FBI investigators, and he was reportedly wiretapped by investigators – before and after the election.
A secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order authorized the wiretapping of Manafort in 2014. It was discontinued in 2016, but investigators obtained another warrant that lasted until early 2017, CNN reported.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Jennifer Earl, Jake Gibson and Zoe Szathmary contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.