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Russia Investigation

Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides” was written by Julian Borger in Washington, for The Guardian on Friday 23rd February 2018 01.21 UTC

More than 30 new charges, involving millions of dollars of bank and tax fraud, were filed on Thursday against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his business partner.

The 32 new charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and a Russian intelligence operation to skew the 2016 presidential election.

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on Manafort, and Rick Gates, his business partner who was deputy chairman of the Trump campaign. Gates has been reported to be negotiating a cooperation deal with Mueller’s office, which is in turn likely to significantly increase the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into collusion.

The new charges come on top of the original 12-count indictment of Manafort and Gates in October, which focused on money-laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.

No trial date has yet been set for Manafort or Gates, and Manafort remains under house arrest, as the special counsel’s office has argued against his lawyers’ bail proposals, questioning the true value of his assets.

In a statement, Manafort’s spokesman reiterated his client’s innocence, adding: “The new allegations against Mr Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.

After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.

Paul Manafort served for five months as chairman of the Trump campaign, resigning in August 2016 after past payments he had received for work in the former Soviet bloc came to light. Investigators are believed to be scrutinizing Manafort’s contacts with Russians during the campaign, including an offer by Manafort to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in July 2016 to provide “private briefings” on the US presidential race.

Manafort, 68, was charged on 30 October with multiple federal felonies unconnected with his campaign duties. The charges included money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors accuse Manafort of using shell companies and tax havens to launder tens of millions of dollars in payments from Kremlin-backed political parties in Ukraine and other employers.

Manafort pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Manafort brought deep political experience to the Trump campaign. He had helped incumbent president Gerald Ford beat back a challenge for the nomination by Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican national convention and later built a lobbying business in Washington that specialised in unsavory clients around the world. Read more about Manafort’s career here.

“Manafort and Gates fraudulently secured more than twenty million dollars in loans by falsely inflating Manafort’s and his company’s income and by failing to disclose existing debt in order to qualify for the loans,” the special prosecutor indictment said.

At one point, according to the charge sheet, Manafort’s ability to get new credit was affected by a 0,000 American Express credit card bill that was more than 90 days in arrears. Manafort got Gates to write a letter saying he had borrowed Manafort’s card and had run up the charges and would repay them.

Manafort is alleged to have made false statements about his income as recently as October last year. The charges refer on three occasions to another conspirator. It is not clear whether the same co-conspirator is being referred to in each case or whether they refer to more than one person. In one case, the co-conspirator is described as working at one of the lenders that was defrauded.

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Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller

  • President’s lawyer gives meandering CNN interview
  • ‘It’s for public opinion’, he says of claims of campaign informant

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller” was written by Tom McCarthy, for The Guardian on Sunday 27th May 2018 18.03 UTC

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that his repeated imputations of a supposed scandal at the heart of the Robert Mueller investigation – which Donald Trump calls “Spygate” – amounted to a tactic to sway public opinion and limit the risk of the president being impeached.

“Of course we have to do it to defend the president,” Trump’s lawyer told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash, who accused him of being part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel’s work a “witch hunt”, despite its producing five guilty pleas, including by three former Trump aides, and evidence of Russian tampering in US elections.

“It is for public opinion,” Giuliani said of his public campaign of dissimulation. “Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.

“So Republicans largely, many independents, even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation],” Giuliani said. “Democrats I would suggest for their own self-interest, this is not a good issue to go into the midterms.”

As Giuliani acknowledged the political nature of his public campaign against Mueller, Trump advanced that campaign on Twitter, lamenting what he said were “young and beautiful lives … devastated and destroyed” by the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“They went back home in tatters!” Trump wrote. It was unclear who he was talking about.

Trump, Giuliani and other allies claim reports that an FBI informant monitored links between Trump aides and Russia show there was a “spy” on the Trump campaign. Senior figures in the intelligence community have rubbished such claims.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, the Democrat Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “This is part of the propaganda machine. Let’s spread a completely fallacious story and then say it needs to be investigated, and give it a life of its own.”

The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, a rare Republican critic of Trump, told NBC’s Meet the Press the “Spygate” claims were a “diversion tactic, obviously”.

He added: “There is concern that the president is laying the groundwork to [fire] Bob Mueller or [deputy attorney general Rod] Rosenstein. If that were to happen, obviously, that would cause a constitutional crisis.”

According to a CNN poll from 10 May, views of the Mueller investigation have shifted significantly among Republicans since March. The poll found that Republican approval of Mueller had declined to 17%, from 29%. Approval among Democrats had fallen slightly, from 69% to 64%. A majority of respondents from both parties disapproved of Trump’s handling of the Mueller investigation.

Giuliani is a former US attorney for the southern district of New York. In his CNN appearance, he called former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, both fierce critics of Trump, “two clowns”.

“I have no regard at all for Brennan or Clapper. I think they’re two clowns…” Giuliani said. “They’re not civil servants as far as I know.”

Robert Mueller leaves a meeting with members of the Senate judiciary committee, last June.
Robert Mueller leaves a meeting with members of the Senate judiciary committee, last June.
Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Clapper told the same show: “In the space of a week I’ve progressed from being the dumbest intelligence officer on the planet, from President Trump, to a clown. So it’s progress, I guess.”

Michael Hayden, another former director of the CIA, told ABC that Trump was “simply trying to delegitimize Mueller … and he’s willing to throw anything against the wall.

“From the outside looking in, from everything I know, everyone has handled this just about the way it should have been handled.”

Giuliani’s month-old job as a spokesman for the president has been marked by confusion, contradiction and scandal. He began by saying money used to seal a 2016 hush agreement with the porn actor Stormy Daniels had come from Trump, who had earlier flatly denied, on camera, any knowledge of the 0,000.

“We’re not changing any stories,” Trump told reporters. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.

Giuliani also said earlier this month Trump would have had his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay off women in addition to Daniels “if necessary”. Giuliani told ABC he had “no knowledge” of any other payments to women.

Trump has repeatedly excused and praised Giuliani. “He started yesterday,” Trump said on 4 May. “He’ll get his facts straight. It’s actually very simple, there has been a lot of misinformation really.”

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Russia Investigation

Former Trump Lawyer: Mueller Raised Possibility of Trump Subpoena

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a meeting with President Donald Trump’s lawyers in March, raised the possibility of issuing a subpoena for Trump if he declines to talk to investigators in the Russia probe, a former lawyer for the president said on Tuesday.

John Dowd told Reuters that Mueller mentioned the possibility of a subpoena in the early March meeting. Mueller’s subpoena warning was first reported by the Washington Post, which cited four people familiar with the encounter.

“This isn’t some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States,” Dowd said he told the investigators, who are probing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Dowd left the president’s legal team about two weeks after the meeting.

The Post said Mueller had raised the possibility of a subpoena after Trump’s lawyers said the president had no obligation to talk with federal investigators involved in the probe.

After the March meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects they wished to ask Trump, the Post reported.

With that information, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions the president’s legal team believed he would be asked, according to the Post.

That list, first reported by the New York Times on Monday, includes questions on Trump’s ties to Russia and others to determine whether the president may have unlawfully tried to obstruct the investigation.

Trump on Tuesday criticized the leak of the questions.

“So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media. No questions on Collusion,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened!”

Russia has denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as U.S. intelligence agencies allege, and Trump has denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Sekulow did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.

Republished With Permission from VOA – Voice Of America

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Paul Manafort asks judge to investigate leaks after Mueller questions revealed

  • Trump’s ex-campaign chairman blames ‘government officials’
  • Leak suggests special counsel asked about Manafort-Russia links

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Paul Manafort asks judge to investigate leaks after Mueller questions revealed” was written by Jon Swaine, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st May 2018 16.00 UTC

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has asked a judge to investigate leaks about his case, after a list of questions that Trump could face from prosecutors, published by the New York Times, indicated that authorities may have new information linking Manafort to Russia.

Attorneys for Manafort complained in a court filing on Monday evening that “numerous unidentified government officials” had prejudiced his case by leaking information about the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has charged Manafort with several crimes.

“Such leaks impugn the character of the individual under investigation and substantially undermine a fundamental principle of our judicial system; ie, the right of the defendant to have the case determined by an impartial jury on the facts,” said the filing to a federal court in Virginia, where Manafort is charged with bank fraud and filing false tax returns.

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.

As Manafort’s lawyers filed their request, the New York Times published the leaked questions. One question relating to Manafort stood out as a potential indicator of information not yet publicly known.

It asked: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”

Most of the questions appeared to focus on whether Trump obstructed justice by interfering with the Russia investigation.

No direct contact between Manafort and Russian government officials has been alleged in court documents filed so far by Mueller’s team. They have accused Manafort of failing to register as an agent for the then pro-Russian government of Ukraine. Manafort’s former business partner, Richard Gates, is cooperating with investigators.

The Times reported that the questions had been read by Mueller’s investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list.

“That document was provided to the Times by a person outside Mr Trump’s legal team,” it said.

John Dean, a White House counsel to Richard Nixon who was jailed for his part in the Watergate scandal, said the leak could itself amount to an “act of obstruction”, by alerting others to what Mueller was investigating.

Dean told CNN late on Monday a Trump ally may have leaked the questions “to try to somehow disrupt the flow of information, the tipping off of witnesses in advance to what the question was going to be”.

Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University and former special counsel at the defense department, described the Manafort question as the “most interesting” on the leaked list and pointed to a CNN report from August 2017 for possible context.

That report said US intelligence agencies had intercepted communications in which suspected Russian spies discussed their efforts to work with Manafort in an attempt to damage Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.

“The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians,” CNN reported, citing unidentified US officials.

Matthew Miller, a former top justice department spokesman, told the Guardian the Manafort question contained the “only new piece of possible evidence” but cautioned that even this might be attributable to an error such as faulty transcription by someone on Trump’s team.

Miller said Trump should not take comfort from the lack of previously undisclosed information in the remaining questions on Mueller’s list.

“The president would be making a huge mistake if he thought these were the only questions he would be asked,” said Miller. “He should be ready to talk about anything. It’s not an ambush to ask you to tell the truth.

“These are broad subject areas that would be followed up with very specific questions based on the evidence Mueller has gathered.”

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly declined to comment on the leaked questions. “As with all questions of this nature, I would refer you to the president’s outside personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani,” she said.

Asked if the White House was concerned that Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said most of the questions point to obstruction of justice, Sanders shot back: “We here at the White House try never to be concerned with anything dealing Adam Schiff.”

Additional reporting by David Smith in Washington

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