The Justice Department has indicted former Donald Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates with charges of conspiracy, money laundering, failing to register as foreign agents and making false statements.
“I think it’s important that the public knows what’s going on in the government,” mechanical engineering major Oliver Mosqueda said. “We have every right to know what our elected officials are doing including the stuff that’s going on with Manafort and Gates.”
Manafort took on the role of campaign chairman in June of 2016 when former chairman Corey Lewandowski was fired from Trump’s staff. He has been under investigation by Justice Department special counsel Robert Muller since the campaign for his ties with Russian-linked donors and whether or not those ties interfered with the 2016 United States presidential election.
He and Gates both pled not guilty to the charges brought upon them by the jury and have surrendered to the FBI for a thorough criminal investigation. Among the most serious charges Manafort and Gates face is money laundering, as Manafort is alleged to have laundered millions of dollars through offshore and foreign shell companies.
At the time, these charges appeared to be no threat to the Trump presidency. However, since then, Muller has announced former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos has pled guilty to lying to the FBI. Back in 2016, Papadopoulos was accused of being in contact with foreign dignitaries who were trying to gain influence on the election, suggesting they had “thousands of [Clinton’s] emails.” He initially denied all allegations publicly, but has since surrendered to the FBI and pled guilty to the charges in private. This development carries deep implications on the fate of Manafort and Gates’ case since Papadopoulos is reportedly cooperating fully with investigators.
This plea of guilt makes it clear that not only did Russian politicians reach out to Trump’s campaign staff during the election, but some staffers (namely Mr. Papadopoulos) were even willing to accept such offers. This comes just months after the U.S. State Department announced it concluded Russian operatives did indeed hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign before releasing a plethora of damaging emails.
If convicted, Manafort and Gates could face about 20 years of prison time in total. The two currently remain under house arrest and are being held at multimillion-dollar bonds while Papadopoulos awaits his sentencing.