The US special counsel in the Russia probe filed new criminal charges on Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, stepping up pressure in a legal battle that started last year.
The 32-count indictment filed by Robert Mueller in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court includes charges of bank fraud and lying on tax returns. It alleges that Manafort, with Gates’ assistance, laundered more than $30 million and duped banks into lending money. It says the pair used funds from secret offshore accounts to enjoy a life of luxury.
Manafort and Gates already face criminal charges by Mueller’s office in federal court in Washington, DC, that include conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the US government and failure to register as foreign agents for political work they did for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
The pair were among the first to be charged as part of Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 US election. Russia has denied meddling in the campaign and Trump has denied any collusion took place. The probe has shadowed Trump’s year-old presidency.
The latest charges against Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager for five months in 2016, and Gates, who was deputy campaign manager, do not mention their work for the Trump campaign.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said Manafort is innocent of the new charges which, he noted, “have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion.”
Thomas Green, a new lawyer for Gates, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michael Zeldin, a former special assistant to Mueller at the US Justice Department, said the new charges “substantially increased the sentencing exposure Manafort and Gates would face upon conviction” at trial. The bank fraud charges, for example, carry up to 30 years in prison.
“It enhances the pressure each of them should feel to work out a plea and cooperation agreement.”
Manafort and Gates have both pleaded not guilty to the charges brought in the DC court in October. A trial in the Washington case has been expected sometime in the autumn.
Earlier this year, Manafort filed a civil complaint against Mueller’s office alleging the special counsel exceeded his authority by bringing charges that were not connected to the 2016 election.
“The White House has repeatedly declined to comment on the Manafort and Gates matter as it has nothing to do with the White House or the campaign,” White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in response to the latest indictment.