Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more information about Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.
President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign network has been under investigation by a special counsel in the FBI for months. On Monday, things got serious.
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been charged with “conspiracy against the United States” for his work before joining the Trump team. He surrendered himself into custody Monday morning.
Also charged: Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates. Former campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI. (His story is interesting, as well. Read the New York Times’ write-up for more information.)
From the Washington Post:
The charges did not reference the Trump campaign but instead focused on Manafort’s and Gates’s work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.
The special counsel alleged that for nearly a decade, the two men laundered money through scores of U.S. and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts, and gave false statements to the Justice Department and others when asked about their work on behalf of a foreign entity.
All of this is a sign that the special counsel probe is ramping up. Any one of these three men could be turned into a cooperating witness against bigger fish — including, potentially, the president himself. That would be necessary, as the current criminal allegations aren’t directly linked to Trump, but rather Manafort’s and Gate’s ties to Russian entities beginning years before the 2016 election.
Once again, the president is trying to redirect blame to his favorite punching bag, Hillary Clinton. His tweets following the news of Manafort’s indictment reveal how worried he is about the criminal probe’s rapid advancement.
Donald Trump promised his administration would “drain the swamp” of the nation’s corrupt, unaccountable elites. He has gloriously failed to do so. Robert Mueller, it seems, is picking up the president’s slack. ■