Manafort walks into FBI field office amid reports he’s surrendering to authorities
Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., on Monday. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, walked into the FBI field office in Washington on Monday morning amid reports that he was surrendering to authorities on unspecified charges related to the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Rick Gates, another top Trump campaign official and Manafort aide, was also set to surrender to the FBI on Monday, according to multiple news reports.
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They would be the first people to be charged as part of the special counsel probe.
The charges do not necessarily relate to actions during the 2016 campaign, but they do show how special counsel Robert Mueller is homing in on key figures in Trump’s orbit.
Manafort, a longtime GOP operative, had been under Justice Department investigation since early 2014 — long before Trump announced his presidential campaign – over his ties to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who abandoned office in February 2014 and fled to Russia amid protests and allegations of government corruption.
The scrutiny into Manafort’s record took on new relevance after investigators began looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election, including email hacks and bots that spread fake news on social media, and whether Trump’s campaign was involved.
Gates joined the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016 along with Manafort, his longtime lobbying partner, to spearhead GOP delegate-counting efforts and avoid an internal party revolt at the Republican convention that could have cost Trump the nomination.
Gates, however, remained in Trump’s chaotic orbit during the general election, working on joint fundraising and massaging internal party dynamics from the Republican National Committee even after Manafort was ousted as head of the campaign in August, after he came under fire following reports about his lobbying work for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine.
Gates later connected with Trump confidante Thomas Barrack at an election night party, according to a New York Times report, and got hired to help run the presidential inaugural committee.
After the election, Gates joined a half-dozen Trump campaign alumni — including digital director Brad Parscale and Nick Ayers, who has since become Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff — at America First Policies, an outside group dedicated to promoting the president’s agenda. Gates left the group in March. CNN reported the departure was due to Gates’s ties to Manafort, who faced increasing scrutiny over his Russian ties as the extent of Moscow’s election-meddling became clear.
The question of what activity Manafort and Gates are facing charges for loomed large Monday morning.
“This could be a big old nothingburger if it was pre-campaign. But if it’s post-campaign it’s going to be serious stuff,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) told CNN on Monday.
Mueller was selected to dig into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, including the hacks and release of Democrats’ emails, which intelligence agencies have concluded were designed to boost Trump’s campaign. Mueller, who was named after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, is also tasked with determining whether any Trump associates colluded with Moscow in that effort. But the special counsel also has wide latitude to pursue any other wrongdoing he finds during his investigation.
Michael Crowley contributed to this report.
October 30, 2017 at 06:52AM