Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and a former business associate of his were ordered to surrender to the F.B.I. early Monday on charges uncovered during a special counsel’s investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in 2016.
Shortly after the two surrendered, the indictment was unsealed revealing 12 criminal counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failing to disclose foreign accounts, filing false and misleading banking statements, making or causing others to make false statements, and failing to file as a foreign agent.
Rick Gates and Manafort were involved with companies set up in the United States, Cyprus, and the Grenadines that were used to hide payments from Eastern European entities. Much of that money ended up in the United States after going through steps common to money laundering operations.
More than $75 million was funneled through a set of 17 domestic companies, 12 businesses in Cyprus, 2 in the Grenadines and one in England. Manafort is alleged to have received at least $18 million in assets from the scheme and Gates at least $3 million. Neither reported the windfalls as income to the IRS.
Manafort had been investigated in 2012 for the financial transactions and dealings with the Ukraine for which he failed to register as a foreign agent until after-the-fact. His work in Ukraine is thought to have ties to the Kremlin, but it occurred before he became Trump’s campaign chair.
It is unclear how Manafort’s previous activity got pulled into the special counsel’s investigation, but experts believe that Robert Mueller is using it as leverage in the hopes of turning him against others in the Trump campaign.
It is also possible that the special counsel used the very public indictments to relieve pressure to produce something after months of fruitless investigations – pressure which has led many, including the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, to call for Mueller’s resignation. Others believe this to be a diversionary tactic to direct attention away from the Democrats’ involvement with Fusion GPS and the Trump dossier.