The investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 US election issues its first indictments
The White House is playing down the charging of three one-time Donald Trump aides as it tries to celebrate Halloween.
The three indictments have come to light as part of the five-month-old special investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 US election.
Perhaps the most significant is the fact that election campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty back in early October to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Russia.
Papadopoulos who is said to be cooperating with the investigation said he was told the Russians possessed dirt on Hillary Clinton and the meetings took place while he was working for Trump.
White House Press Secretary was Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unimpressed:
“I mean he (George Papadopoulos) was a volunteer on the campaign and a volunteer member of an advisory council that met one time.”
The other two men indicted are Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and fellow aide Rick Gates. The have been placed under house arrest after pleading not guilty to several charges including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.
Neither Trump nor his campaign was mentioned as the charges were read out in court.
Kevin Downing, Paul Manafort’s attorney
“There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Mr. Manafort represented pro-European Union campaigns for the Ukrainian (government) […] Those activities ended in 2014, over two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign”.
The indictments are the first to be issued by the Russia probe which has cast a shadow over President Trump’s first nine months in office and which he has described as a Witch Hunt.