WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Monday to conspiracy against the United States and 11 other counts that marked the first criminal charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Manafort’s longtime business associate Rick Gates also was named in the indictment that said the pair laundered millions in revenue from their work as unregistered foreign agents and lied to the Department of Justice about their activities as recently as last February.
Manafort “used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income,” the document alleges.
He spent millions on home improvement and landscaping at businesses in the Hamptons and his sprawling Bridgehampton estate is subject to forfeiture, according to the indictment.
Gates also pleaded not guilty to all charges at federal district court in Washington, D.C.
Both surrendered their passports and were ordered to home confinement. Bond was set at $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates.
Separately, an agreement unsealed Monday showed former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to the FBI. He allegedly misled authorities on a meeting he held with a professor promising “dirt” from Russia on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The charges against the three men signaled a turning point in Mueller’s monthslong investigation, which includes the examination of Kremlin meddling in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign played a role.
Mueller was appointed in May and took over the probe begun by then-FBI Director James Comey after Trump abruptly fired Comey.
The president and his aides responded Monday by seeking to underscore that no evidence has been unearthed pointing to collusion between his inner circle and Moscow.
Trump and his campaign are not mentioned in Manafort and Gates’ 31-page indictment.
“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?????” Trump tweeted.
“.... Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” he added.
The morning tweets came before Mueller’s office announced the Papadopoulos deal.
Still, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to minimize Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign as “extremely limited” and noted he was a volunteer.
“It has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign. It has to do with his failure to tell the truth,” she said of his charges.
The president’s tweet that Manafort’s alleged activities took place long before the 2016 campaign clashed with the indictment’s charge that Manafort and Gates conspired to defraud the United States “in or about and between 2006 and 2017.”
Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, told reporters Trump was “correct” in that there was “no evidence” that Manafort, the campaign and Russia colluded.
Gates’ spokesman Glenn Selig said his client welcomes the opportunity to confront the charges in court. “This fight is just beginning,” Selig said.
Manafort, 68, of Alexandria, Virginia, and Gates, 45, of Richmond, Virginia, worked as unregistered agents to the government of Ukraine and the pro-Russia Party of Regions, among other groups, according to Mueller’s office.
They hid the payments from U.S. authorities by laundering the millions through U.S. and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts, including overseas in Cyprus, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the indictment said.
In all, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts and Manafort laundered more than $18 million, it said.
Downing called the notion of keeping offshore accounts to bring funds into the United States and conceal them from the U.S. government “ridiculous.”
The indictment alleges opulent tastes on the part of Manafort.
He wired $934,000 for spending at an antique rug store in Alexandria, Virginia, $849,000 for shopping at a men’s clothing store in New York and $520,000 toward a clothing store in Beverly Hills, California, according to the document.
In 2012, he made payments on three Range Rovers and bought a Mercedes Benz, the indictment said.
A summary of the charges encompassed in the 31-page indictment and the potential penalties:
- COUNT ONE: Conspiracy against the United States Both men are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the United States between 2006 and 2007. If found guilty of this count, each potentially faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- COUNT TWO: Conspiracy to launder money Both men are charged with conspiring together and with others to transfer funds from outside the United States to and through places inside the country without properly disclosing the transactions or paying required federal taxes. Penalties for this count include up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of either $500,000 or twice the monetary value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.
- COUNTS THREE THROUGH SIX: Failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts The indictment alleges that for each calendar year between 2012 and 2015, Manafort failed to disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department that he had a financial interest in and authority over bank accounts in a foreign country involving more than $10,000. Penalties include up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the four counts and fines of up to $100,000, or up to 50 percent of the total value for the transactions, for each of the four years encompassed in the counts.
- COUNTS SEVEN THROUGH NINE: Failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts The indictment alleges that between 2012 and 2014 Gates failed to disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department that he had a financial interest in and authority over bank accounts in a foreign country involving more than $10,000. Penalties include up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the four counts and fines of up to $100,000, or up to 50 percent of the total value for the transactions, for each of the four years encompassed in the counts.
- COUNT TEN: Unregistered agent of a foreign principal Prosecutors allege that both men failed to register with the U.S. attorney general as foreign agents of the government of Ukraine, the Part of Regents and Yanukovych between 2008 and 2014. Penalties include up to 5 years in federal prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- COUNT ELEVEN: False and misleading statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act The indictment alleges that both men made multiple false statements to federal officials in relation to their failure to register as foreign agents of the Ukrainian government. Penalties include up to 5 years in federal prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- COUNT TWELVE: False statements Prosecutors allege that between November 2016 and February 2017, Manafort and Gates conspired together and caused others to make false statements and conceal crimes against the United States. The penalty for this count is up to 5 years in prison.