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    3 ex-Trump aides face charges in Mueller probe

    WASHINGTON — Special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III on Monday revealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials, marking the first criminal allegations to come from inquiries into possible Russian influence in US political affairs.

    The charges are striking for their breadth, touching all levels of the Trump campaign and exploring the possible personal, financial wrongdoing of those involved, as well as what appeared to be a dogged effort by one campaign official to arrange a meeting with Russian officials.

    Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements, and other charges. The most damaging charges were leveled at alleged activities before the two joined the Trump campaign.

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    Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance Monday. US Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson put the men on home confinement and set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and a $5 million unsecured bond for Gates.

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    Prosecutors also announced Monday that former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner who claimed to have high-level Russian connections.

    Court documents described the extensive efforts Papadopoulos made to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign. E-mails show at least some of these offers were rebuffed.

    After admitting to lying to the FBI about his interactions with people he thought had connections with the Russian government, Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators for months, according to a court filing.

    The charges against Manafort and Gates did not make direct reference the Trump campaign, a point Trump noted Monday on Twitter. ‘‘Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary and the Dems the focus?’’ Trump wrote. ‘‘Also, there is no collusion!’’

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    Papadopoulos’s case is related to the investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    In a January 2017 interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos told the agency that a London-based professor claimed to him he had ‘‘dirt’’ on Hillary Clinton, including ‘‘thousands of e-mails,’’ but Papadopoulos viewed him as a ‘‘nothing.’’

    In reality, according to his plea, Papadopoulos understood the man had connections to Russian government officials, and he had treated him very seriously as he tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

    After a March 2016 meeting with the man, who was not identified in court records, Papadopoulos e-mailed a campaign supervisor and other members of the campaign’s foreign policy team and said the professor had introduced him to ‘‘Putin’s niece’’ and the Russian ambassador in London.

    Papadopoulos claimed the purpose was ‘‘to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.’’

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    The government noted, in fact, the woman was not Russian President Vladimir Putin’s niece, and while Papadopoulos expected the professor would introduce him to the Russian ambassador, that never happened.

    But in the months that followed, Papadopoulos continued to correspond with the woman and the professor about a possible meeting between the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, and Russian officials.

    ‘‘The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,’’ Papadopoulos wrote to a senior policy adviser for the campaign on April 25.

    Two days later, he e-mailed another high-ranking campaign official wanting ‘‘to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump.’’

    The campaign officials were not identified in court records. Papadopoulos’s effort continued into the summer of 2016, and in August of that year a campaign supervisor told Papadopoulos and another foreign policy adviser they should take a trip to Russia. That ultimately did not take place, according to the plea.

    The indictment of Manafort and Gates focused on their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

    The special counsel alleged that for nearly a decade Manafort and Gates laundered money through scores of US 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 told, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts, the special counsel alleged. Manafort, the special counsel said, laundered more than $18 million, using his wealth acquired overseas to ‘‘enjoy a lavish lifestyle’’ in the United States, purchasing multimillion dollar properties, antiques, luxury cars, and expensive suits, and paying for home renovations.

    Manafort turned himself in at the FBI’s Washington field office on Monday morning.

    Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing attacked the charges, saying ‘‘there is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.’’ Gates did not respond to a request for comment.

    According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates arranged to hire two Washington-based lobbying firms to work on behalf of their Ukrainian clients, arranging meetings with US officials and boosting their public image in the United States.

    Prosecutors say, however, that Manafort and Gates arranged for a Brussels-based nonprofit to nominally hire the companies to hide the fact that their work was for Ukrainian government officials and would otherwise require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

    Prosecutors allege that Manafort was communicating directly with then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych about the effort, promising in 2012 to provide him weekly updates about the effort.

    To further obscure Ukrainian involvement in the lobbying effort, prosecutors say, payments to the Washington firms were routed through obscure offshore companies.

    Prosecutors say that when the Department of Justice approached Manafort and Gates in 2016 and 2017 about whether they should have registered as foreign agents for the work, they responded with false and misleading letters.

    The letters indicated that they had not directed the lobbying effort and asserted they did not hold records reflecting their work, even though later searches showed they did, according to the indictment.

    Manafort and Gates also were accused of willfully and intentionally trying to hide money kept in foreign bank accounts — Manafort from 2011 to 2014 and Gates from 2012 to 2014. And Manafort was accused of filing fraudulent tax returns.

    The men made tens of millions of dollars for themselves, the special counsel alleged. From 2008 to 2014, according to the indictment, Manafort arranged to wire $12 million from offshore accounts to pay for personal expenses.

    While the men first appeared before a magistrate judge, the case was assigned to US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a 2011 Barack Obama appointee.

    Jackson worked as federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia after graduating from Harvard Law School.

    Mueller was appointed in May to oversee the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, taking over work that the FBI had begun in July 2016.

    While Mueller’s inquiry has focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, investigators have shown interest in a broad array of other topics.

    Those include meetings the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow in December and a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving the president’s son, Donald Jr., and a Russian lawyer.

    Mueller’s team has requested extensive records from the White House, covering areas including the president’s private discussions about firing James Comey as FBI director and his response to news that Flynn was under investigation.

    Mueller is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice leading up to Comey’s firing.

    Rick Gates, a junior partner of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in New York in April.
    Damon Winter/New York Times/file
    Rick Gates, a junior partner of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in New York in April.