White House says Mueller indictments 'have nothing to do with Trump'

Published 30.10.2017 21:14
Updated 31.10.2017 12:39
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to the media about the FBI's indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (AP Photo)
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to the media about the FBI's indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (AP Photo)

The White House distanced itself from the indictment of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, as well as a plea agreement involving a former Trump campaign official.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said most of the alleged activities for which Manafort and Gates have been indicted took place before the 2016 campaign.

Sanders added the alleged misdeeds have nothing to do with Trump.

But she said it "has everything to do" with Hillary Clinton's campaign and a research firm that produced the dossier of allegations about Trump's ties to the Kremlin.

Sanders was asked about the guilty plea by former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. She said Papadopoulos was a "volunteer."

Soon after the White House statement, a review of the federal charges emerged, showing Manafort, and Gates now face decades in federal prison and millions of dollars in potential fines if convicted on all counts.

Manafort potentially faces up to 80 years in prison, according to a review of the federal charges and the relevant statutes by The Associated Press. Gates, who also worked for the Trump campaign, faces up to 70 years.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller could still file additional charges against the pair. If convicted at trial, the law gives federal judges wide latitude in imposing prison sentences and fines. White-collar defendants often end up serving only a fraction of their statutory maximum sentences, especially if they reach a pre-trial agreement with prosecutors as part of an admission of guilt.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort and Gates worked as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine and the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party led by Victor Yanukovych. While serving as president of the former Soviet republic from 2010 to 2014, Yanukovych was closely aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment says that up to $75 million flowed through overseas accounts controlled by the two Americans. Manafort is alleged to have laundered more than $18 million he used to buy property and goods in the United States. Gates is alleged to have transferred more than $3 million to accounts he controlled.

Manafort was released Monday on home confinement after posting a $10 million bond. Gates was released on a $5 million bond.

In a separate development Monday, newly unsealed court documents show George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5.

As part of a sworn statement to the court, Papadopoulos says he repeatedly met in 2016 with Russians offering "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos says he then relayed that and other messages from the Russians to senior members of Trump's GOP campaign.

Papadopoulos' guilty plea came as part of an agreement with prosecutors that signals he could avoid prison time as part of an apparent deal to cooperate with Mueller's team.

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