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Given the lack of savviness with which George Papadopoulos tried to disappear a months-long effort to get Trump campaign officials in a room with Russian government officials who had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he may as well have been just a campaign “coffee boy.”

According to Papadopoulos’ guilty plea unsealed Monday, the former Trump campaign advisor attempted to conceal that work from the FBI, destroying records and lying to agents. So instead of landing what he billed to other campaign staff as a “history making” meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Papadopoulos’ back-channel dealings landed him federal charges.

His first missteps came during his initial interview with FBI agents in Chicago on Jan. 27. Papadopoulos’ statement of offense makes no mention of any counsel accompanying him to that sit-down, where agents informed him that the interview was “completely voluntary,” that lying to the FBI was a “federal offense” and that he could get “in trouble” for doing so.

Papadopoulos proceeded to tell all manner of falsehoods about the “extent, timing, and nature of his communications” with multiple individuals with close ties to the Russian government, according to the statement. One was that a professor with links to Russian officials who supposedly had “dirt” on Clinton approached him about said dirt before he joined the campaign, when in fact he did so over a month after Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign.

Nick Oberheiden, a federal criminal defense attorney, told TPM that Papadopoulos’ false statements likely served as the “little mosaic pieces” that provided the FBI with the “slam dunk required to make it over the probable cause hurdle” to obtain a search warrant to dig through his online communications.

Once the FBI did, they found copious emails detailing Papadopoulos’ efforts to coordinate an in-person meeting between senior Russian officials and high-level Trump campaign staffers that directly contradicted what he’d told them.

As those communications made clear, growing scrutiny of Trump’s fondness for Putin, which escalated after the GOP candidate urged the Russian government to hack Clinton’s emails in a July 2016 press conference, didn’t dissuade Papadopoulos from continuing to try to organize such a meeting.

Papadopoulos went on to express eagerness to cooperate in a second interview with the FBI on Feb. 16, this time with his counsel present. According to the statement of offense detailing the case, the very next day Papadopoulos deactivated a Facebook account he’d maintained since 2005 that contained records of his communications regarding Russia; several days later, on Feb. 23, he stopped using his cell phone and acquired a new number.

Papadopoulos’ attorneys did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on whether he notified them that he would be taking those steps, which were later cited as evidence he was trying to “impede the FBI’s ongoing investigation.”

As Oberheiden, the criminal defense attorney noted, “I would not advise a client to delete Facebook or anything that may contain information regarding this investigation because then you really get into the obstruction of justice area and that’s a tricky offense.”

Trump and his allies have dismissed the notion that Papadopoulos could possess any information damaging to the campaign, arguing that the 30-year-old, who until recently listed Model U.N. as experience on his LinkedIn profile, was a “volunteer” and “coffee boy” with no real influence. But he was one of just five people Trump named as members of his foreign policy advisory team in March 2016, and emails show he was in frequent touch with senior campaign staffers, forwarding them lengthy chains detailing his efforts to set up a meeting with Russian officials.

And Oberheiden and other attorneys point out that the special counsel likely targeted Papadopoulos precisely because he was a low-level aide who would be easy to “flip,” convincing him to provide any information he may possess about other campaign staffers in exchange for a reduced sentence. The statement of offense notes that in the three months since Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles International Airport, he has “met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

Until the content of those conversations comes out, Trump’s team is reduced to arguing that the people the campaign named to advisory roles had no idea what they were doing.

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During the Trump administration’s very first week in office, the seeds were planted for the initial charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Thanks to an indictment unsealed Monday morning, we now know former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos lied about the extent of his Russian contacts in an interview with FBI agents on Jan. 27, exactly one week after the inauguration. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to making false statements in that interview about his Russian contacts.

Mueller’s appointment didn’t come until May, after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the bureau’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election—and the collection of evidence for that investigation had already begun before Trump had even taken his hand off the Bible. The day before inauguration, the New York Times reported that law enforcement and intelligence sources were already looking at intercepted communications and financial records “as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” Comey later testified before Congress that the FBI investigation into those links began in July 2016; Manafort was arrested on Monday.

Papadopoulos wasn’t even the first campaign adviser accused of misleading the FBI during the initial week of Trump’s presidency: Three days before Papadopoulos’ interview, Michael Flynn, at the time Trump’s national security advisor, denied to FBI investigators that he had discussed sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—even though the Washington Post cited U.S. officials saying Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak before Trump took office.

The same day that Papadopoulos met with the FBI, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn to share her concerns about Flynn’s “underlying conduct” for a second time.

The following Monday, Trump fired Yates.

Under oath before Congress, Yates later asserted that problems with Flynn went much farther than being “compromised by the Russians,” as she said the Justice Department believed under her tenure.

“Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information,” Yates said in May. “And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”

Mueller’s investigators are looking into Flynn’s failure to disclose contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and transition, as well as his work on a lobbying contract for a Turkish businessman, and whether he played any role in a former GOP operative’s efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s private emails. Flynn has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

That same Friday Papadopoulos lied and McGahn met Yates, Trump also surprised Comey with a private dinner, just the two men alone.

“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Trump told him, according to Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey interpreted the dinner as “at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship,” he told the committee.

Trump went on to fire Comey on May 9, giving rise to Mueller’s appointment.

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Even before Paul Manafort left his home in Alexandria, Virginia, early Monday morning to turn himself in to the FBI, reporters were waiting at the DC federal courthouse where he would appear later in the day.

By 1:30 p.m. ET, when Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates, were schedule for an initial appearance, a queue of reporters lined the entire hallway up to U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson’s courtroom, a short walk from where the grand jury that approved of their indictment has been meeting.

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Asked Monday about the explosive indictment of two former Trump campaign officials, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded with a familiar refrain, casting the pair as independent actors whose alleged misdeeds were entirely unrelated to the campaign.

“Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the President and nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity,” an indignant Sanders said at the daily press briefing of the fraud, money laundering and other counts against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Rick Gates.

This effort to minimize their relationship with the campaign belies the facts, particularly in Gates’ case. Manafort’s business partner remained a key player in Trumpworld long after Manafort himself was forced out of the campaign over concerns about his work abroad. Gates coordinated behind-the-scenes preparations for Trump’s inauguration and served on a pro-Trump super PAC in the early months of 2017.

And as the Miami Herald reported Monday, a domestic entity listed in the indictment as one of the corporations Manafort and Gates used to hide foreign earnings even accepted a total of $70,000 from the Republican National Committee for “political strategy services” it provided in coordination with the Trump campaign, suggesting the line between Gates’ work for the campaign and his illicit dealings wasn’t quite so bright.

Gates and Manafort’s professional histories are closely intertwined. From their mid-2000s lobbying work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party, the source of many of the millions they allegedly funneled through offshore bank accounts, to the time they joined the Trump campaign in the March 2016, Gates served as Manafort’s right-hand man.

The pair was brought on to help wrangle delegates in Trump’s favor at the Republican National Convention, and did so from a box in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena that the Daily Beast reported was nicknamed “The Eagle’s Nest”—a reference to a Nazi Party country home gifted to Adolf Hitler.

Manafort was abruptly forced from the campaign in August 2016 amid a flood of increasingly troubling news reports about his work for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine. But Gates stayed on, and ended up developing closer ties to those in Trump’s inner circle. As the campaign said at the time, he became the RNC liaison, working from both the party’s and the Trump campaign’s headquarters. Bade LLC, a company listed in the indictment as an entity used to allegedly hide foreign funds that the Miami Herald reported has an address associated with Gates, received $70,000 in three installments from the RNC dated Sept. 2016, Oct. 2016 and Jan. 2017 for work done in coordination with the campaign.

After Election Day, real estate investor and close Trump pal Tom Barrack enlisted Gates to serve as one of his top deputies on the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

Gates subsequently became one of six campaign aides to found a nonprofit called “America First Policies” aimed at furthering Trump’s agenda; he was forced out in March over growing questions about the work he did with Manafort in Ukraine. The group further tried to distance itself from Gates on Monday, insisting his association was “informal and limited.”

As the Daily Beast reported, Gates’ Trump connections helped him land on his feet and even get inside the White House doors through a gig working directly for Barrack. The millionaire Trump donor would routinely bring Gates along when he stopped by the West Wing for meetings with the President, according to the Beast’s June report.

It was around this time that Gates’ name resurfaced in the news, including in a memo to the presidential transition requesting all documents related to Russia, Ukraine and a number of campaign advisers and officials, including him and Manafort.

Gates also agreed to be interviewed by the New York Times for a profile, in which he said it was “totally ridiculous and without merit” to allege any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and insisted all of his work for Ukraine was “done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”

He was ultimately indicted for a wide-ranging money laundering conspiracy and multiple violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

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Paul Manafort financed a lavish lifestyle with money laundered through offshore accounts, with expenditures including more than $1.3 million in purchases at Beverly Hills and New York clothing stores and more than $1 million on antique rugs, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday. Manafort pled not guilty.

The 12-count indictment against Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates charges that more than $75 million “flowed through” those offshore accounts. It alleges Manafort took $18 million through the accounts, while Gates is accused of transferring $3 million from those accounts to ones he controlled.

The bulk of Manafort’s alleged years-long spending spree took the form of $12 million  in untaxed money he spent on luxury items and home improvements. The indictment spells out how Manafort would have one of his 15 offshore accounts—12 in Cyprus, two in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and one in the United Kingdom—wire in cash to each vendor for his purchases.

The list of Manafort’s lavish expenditures from his offshore accounts runs across eight of the indictment’s 31 pages. More than $5.4 million went to a “home improvement company” in the Hamptons from a mix of Cypriot entities, notably LOAV Advisors and Yiakora Ventures (An NBC News story about the Manafort’s debts to Russian oligarch and Putin confidant Oleg Deripaska said Manafort’s other companies were a primary influence over Yiakura’s business dealings).

Manafort’s expenditures at a Northern Virginia rug merchant, including a $100,000 “related” payment

 

Manafort, whose house in Water Mill, New York is among the assets prosecutors have proposed seizing, began spending from offshore accounts at that vendor in 2008 and continued, often several times a month, until August 2014. He also spent quite a bit on lawn care: a Hamptons-based landscaper lists expenditures totaling $164,740.

The indictment charges that he wired money to an Alexandria, Virginia rug merchant nine times, from as little as $7,400 to as much as $250,000.

Talking Points Memo called around Monday afternoon to rug merchants in Alexandria. At J&J Oriental, a salesperson promised a call back; at Domimex Antiques and Rugs, the proprietor said, “If you hear of anybody who has that kind of money to spend, please send them to me!”

TPM was not the first outlet to contact Art Underfoot, where the person who answered the phone said, “So many reporters have called me! I wish [Manafort] did! I am so poor!”

Not everyone was willing to chime in, however. A person who answered the phone at Herat Oriental told TPM “no comment” and hung up after a reporter identified himself.

Accounts associated with Manafort also made 34 transfers to an unnamed New York clothing store totaling nearly $850,000, and nine transfers to a Beverly Hills clothing store totaling $520,440. He patronized a Florida art gallery in 2011 and again in 2013, where his tab ran to $31,900.

A New York housekeeping service also earned $20,000 in three installments from accounts associated with Manafort.

Manafort’s expenditures at a single New York clothier, 1 of 2
Manafort’s expenditures at a single New York clothier, 2 of 2

The satirical commentary on Twitter was swift:

This post has been updated.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another former Trump aide, Rick Gates, have been accused of setting up a lobbying scheme on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader that concealed the ties the effort had to his political party.

The allegations come in the bombshell federal indictment in Washington, D.C., made public Monday as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The claims made Monday are not specifically related to the 2016 election; rather, they largely focus on Manafort’s and Gates’ activities before joining the Trump campaign. Among the allegations is that they did not properly disclose the lobbying work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that is almost never used to bring criminal cases.

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One cornerstone of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s elaborate alleged tax evasion scheme was his use of offshore bank accounts to purchase luxury real estate properties and subsequently take out cash mortgages on them, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

The lucrative, multi-state scheme allowed Manafort, who was hit with 12 felony counts including fraud, “to have the benefits of liquid income without paying taxes on it,” per the indictment.

The 31-page document details a years-long circular arrangement in which the longtime GOP operative allegedly would use the funds from one mortgage to fund his next real estate project and keep his head above water. It also alleges that Manafort lied to banks about the terms of these loans so that he then could receive more money at more favorable rates than he would’ve received otherwise.

Above: Manafort made these wire transfers from accounts in Cyprus towards purchasing real estate.

In one instance, Manafort allegedly funneled $2,850,000 in cash from an entity he owned in Cyprus to purchase a condominium in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, which he rented out for thousands of dollars a week through Airbnb and other rental companies. Because he could get a bigger loan on the mortgage he applied for if he used the property as a residence rather than a rental, he allegedly falsely told the bank that lended to him that his daughter and then-son-in-law lived there. He allegedly directed the son-in-law and his business partner, Rick Gates, to assist with this cover-up, and ultimately received a loan for $3,185,000 (Gates was indicted on 11 counts alongside Manafort).

Manafort also allegedly funneled $3 million in cash from an entity in Cyprus to purchase a brownstone in the posh Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn and then set about renovations that would convert the building from a multi- to a single-family home. A bank promised more money for “construction loans” that were to be spent on renovations that would make the property more valuable, according to the indictment. Though Manafort ultimately received a $5 million loan after promising the bank he would use $1,400,000 of it solely for construction, he “never intended to limit use of the process to construction” as the contracts required, per the indictment.

He allegedly wrote to his tax preparer weeks before receiving those funds that the  influx of cash would allow him to pay off a separate mortgage in full, and Manafort ultimately used hundreds of thousands of dollars from the construction loan to make a down payment on a separate property in California, according to the indictment.

The SoHo and Carroll Gardens properties are among four that the U.S. government said Manafort would be required to forfeit if he is convicted for his alleged crimes. Another apartment in Arlington, Virginia and his home in the Hamptons are also on that list.

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Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian nationals that continued late into the summer before the 2016 election. The case was unsealed Monday.

Papadopoulos acknowledged in a statement of offense that he lied about those communications during a January 2017 interview with FBI agents, and that he subsequently “impeded the FBI’s ongoing investigation” into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

According to the statement, Papadopoulos was in regular contact with three individuals he believed to have high-level ties with the Kremlin from the time he came onboard as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016 through at least August of that year, and he regularly informed other members of the Trump campaign about those communications.

One of those individuals was a London-based professor of diplomacy who claimed to have “substantial connections to Russian government officials,” including members of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and who told Papadopoulos that he learned on a trip to Moscow that the Russian government had obtained “dirt” and “thousands of emails” on Hillary Clinton.

He was arrested on July 27 upon landing at Dulles International Airport and has since “met with the Government on numerous occasion to provide information and answer questions,” according to the statement.

News of Papadopoulos’ cooperation with the U.S. government came the same day a 12-count federal indictment was unsealed against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, alleging a $75 million money-laundering conspiracy.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to distance Papadopolous from the campaign repeatedly during Monday’s press briefing, insisting he played an “extremely limited” role as a “volunteer.” He was one of five members of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. 

According to the statement, Papadopoulos had lunch with the London-based professor and a woman he described in an email to the campaign supervisor and other members of the foreign policy team as “Putin’s niece” just three days after he came on board in March 2016. The purpose of the meeting, he wrote, was to “discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

Papadopoulos continued to engage with the woman he believed to be Putin’s niece to try to organize a Trump campaign foreign policy trip to Russia, according to the statement. No such trip ultimately occurred.

It turns out that woman was not actually a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the statement notes. But that contact nevertheless set off a months-long exchange in which Papadopoulos tried to broker an in-person, off-the-record meeting between members of the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

He even made the pitch to Trump himself: according to the statement, Papadopoulos introduced himself at a March 2016 meeting with the GOP candidate by saying “he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between” Trump and Putin.

The professor later introduced Papadopoulos to a second foreign national with whom he exchanged a volley of emails. That individual repeatedly informed him that his contacts at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) were “open for cooperation” with the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos forwarded one May 2016 email about this interest from the MFA to “three separate individuals who at the time were senior officials with the Campaign,” according to the statement.

As the Washington Post previously reported, one of those recipients was Manafort, who forwarded the message to Gates, who he brought with him onto the campaign.

“Let[’]s discuss,” the forwarded email read, as quoted in the statement. “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

Despite that protestation, Papadopoulos’ back-channel maneuverings were applauded and even encouraged by some on the Trump campaign.

“Great work,” Papadopoulos was told by a “Campaign supervisor” after he informed that individual of his initial lunch regarding boosting Trump-Russia relations. Days before Manafort abruptly left the campaign over his work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party in August 2016, a campaign supervisor wrote Papadopoulos, “I would encourage you” to “make the trip if it is feasible,” according to the statement.

Papadopoulos subsequently admitted that he lied about the extent of his communications in his voluntary FBI interview in January in Chicago, in which he told agents he thought the professor was “BS’ing” about his ties to Russian nationals and was “a nothing.”

The former Trump aide had also falsely said that the professor told him the Russians had “thousands of emails” and “dirt” on Clinton before he ever joined the campaign; the professor actually told him about the emails in April 2016, after he’d been with the campaign for weeks.

At a second FBI interview in February, accompanied by his counsel, Papadopoulos said he would willingly “cooperate” with the probe. But according to the statement, he deleted his longtime Facebook account that he used to communicate with Russian nationals and that contained information that contradicted his statements to the FBI the very next day; a few days later, he stopped using his cell phone and acquired a new number, too.

Trump has not yet commented on Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, though he downplayed the indictment against Manafort and Gates in a pair of Monday morning tweets that said their indictments were unrelated to their work on his campaign.

“NO COLLUSION!” Trump blared.

The Papadopoulos plea, however, touches directly on the inner workings of the President’s campaign.

Read Papadopoulos’ statement of offense below:

This post has been updated.

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Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were hit with a 12-count indictment unsealed Monday that alleges a wide-ranging money laundering conspiracy and multiple violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Both will plead not guilty.

The charges focus not on collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government but on Manafort’s own alleged money laundering activities, which the indictment says personally netted him $18 million and Gates $3 million. According to the indictment, the money in question came from under-the-table lobbying activities on behalf of Ukraine’s Party of Regions, the party of former president Victor Yanukovych. The two men held offshore accounts that allegedly handled more than $75 million over the nine years covered by the charges.

Manafort and Gates were each indicted on one count of conspiracy against the U.S., one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, one count of making a false and misleading FARA statement and a separate count of making a false statement. Manafort was also indicted on four counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, while Gates was indicted on three counts of the same.

The indictment charges that Manafort “represented falsely that he did not have authority over any foreign bank accounts,” and, in a complicated tax dodge, Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts,” depriving the U.S. of tax revenue, according to the indictment.

It also alleges that Manafort, who was not registered as a foreign agent, took steps to “develop a false and misleading cover story” that would conceal his work for the Party of Regions in order to distance himself from the Government of Ukraine.

In the indictment, the government proposes seizing four of Manafort’s real estate properties—three in New York and one in Arlington, Virginia—as well as his life insurance policy.

This post has been updated.

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Dane Boente, one of the most powerful U.S. attorneys in the country who has also served as a top official in President Trump’s Justice Department, is stepping down, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

As U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Boente has overseen a number of key investigations and prosecutions, and the office has been involved in the federal Russian election meddling investigation. A number of national security agencies sit in the Eastern District, putting his office at the center of many terrorism cases. Boente is also the acting assistant attorney general of the National Security Division of the Justice Department.

After Sally Yates was fired from her role as acting Attorney General for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban, Boente served in that role temporarily as well. He also served as acting deputy attorney general in the early days of the Trump administration.

According to the Post’s report, he will not leave that until the official Trump’s pick for  assistant attorney general of the National Security Division, John C. Demers, is confirmed.  Trump has not yet nominated someone to succeed Boente as U.S. Attorney the Eastern District of Virginia.

Trump has reportedly been interviewing personally potential U.S. attorney nominees for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, both of which are also conducting investigations into Trump associates. For the President to get personally involved in that interview process is very uncommon, and has attracted criticism from Democrats.

 

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