The investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia led to some explosive news Monday morning: Three former Trump campaign officials have been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading up the Russia probe, with crimes ranging from money laundering to lying to the FBI.
The three men indicted on Monday are all former officials or advisers to the Trump campaign, including former campaign chair Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates (a Manafort associate) and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Gates and Manafort are criminally charged on 12 counts having to do with their consulting work in Ukraine before they joined the Trump campaign. They pled not guilty in a DC court today. Papadopoulos, who already pled guilty, was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians during the campaign.
Manafort was a familiar figure during the campaign and after, and his mounting legal troubles led to speculation months ago that he could end up a target of Mueller’s investigation. But Gates and Papadopoulos are more obscure figures. Here’s what we know about all three men, their connections to Trump, and the charges they’re facing.
Paul Manafort: the campaign chair
Paul Manafort ran the Trump campaign for a brief period, from May to August 2016, but he has been a Republican operative and lobbyist for decades. He started working in politics during Gerald Ford’s campaign for president in 1976, and also worked on the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole.
But most importantly, Manafort spent many years doing consulting work in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, starting in the mid-2000s.
The work that just got Manafort indicted was advising the Party of Regions, a pro-Russia party in Ukraine led by Viktor Yanukovych, who became the Ukrainian president in 2010. This consulting work made Manafort tens of millions, which he allegedly tried to hide from the US government. The indictment release Monday accused Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates of money laundering, failure to disclose their financial assets, and false statements about their work for the Ukrainian government and a Ukrainian political party.
Manafort started working for the Trump campaign in March 2016 in a fairly limited capacity, focusing on getting delegates for the Republican National Convention. He had a rapid ascent in the Trump orbit, becoming the campaign chair and taking on the duties of campaign manager a few months later.
Manafort’s downfall was just as rapid: He was ousted in August 2016, after intense media scrutiny into his dealings in Ukraine, the same work that’s now gotten him criminally indicted.
These charges have nothing to do with possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. Rather, it’s believed that special counsel Robert Mueller is indicting Manafort to put more pressure on him to spill information about others in the investigation.
Rick Gates: the “right-hand man”
Rick Gates is a longtime aide and business partner in Manafort’s campaign consulting company, and he is being indicted for allegedly helping Manafort launder millions of dollars, store millions more in shell companies, and lie to the government about this activity, which took place from 2006 to 2015. As recently as June, Gates told the New York Times that Mueller’s investigators had not been in touch with him, and maintained he and Manafort had done nothing illegal.
Gates has known Manafort for decades and started working with him back in 2006. He followed Manafort to the Trump campaign, joining around March 2016, according to a report by ABC News. An online bio obtained by Politico said Gates “worked on several US presidential campaigns and has participated in many international political campaigns in Europe and Africa.” Gates was in charge of the Trump campaign’s preparations for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and eventually became deputy campaign manager. He continued to serve on the campaign even after Manafort had departed.
After Trump was elected president, Gates was instrumental in helping plan the president’s inauguration. He briefly joined a pro-Trump lobbying group called America First Policies, but was ousted in April as the Russia probe started to heat up. He’s currently serving as an adviser to Tom Barrack, a real estate investor and friend of Trump’s, who was in charge of the inauguration committee, ABC News reported.
George Papadopoulos: the 30-year-old foreign policy adviser
George Papadopoulos is the third Trump campaign aide to be criminally charged; he secretly pleaded guilty three weeks ago, but his indictment was just unsealed today. Unlike Manafort and Gates, the indictment against Papadopoulos very much has to do with Russia; he is being charged with lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russians during the campaign.
Previous reporting from the Washington Post suggests Papadopoulos was aggressively trying to establish ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians, sending out at least a half-dozen emails urging Trump and his team to meet with his Russian contacts. But it’s unclear how much influence Papadopoulos had; in fact, one of his requests was rejected by Manafort in May 2016, according to the Post. But the indictment says that Papadopoulos communicated about these meeting requests with an unnamed campaign supervisor, who responded by saying, “great work.”
Papadopoulos, 30, joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser on March 16 and served for much of the rest of the campaign, according to the FBI indictment. Before coming to the Trump campaign, Papadopoulos served in a similar capacity on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.
He graduated from DePaul University in 2009 and completed a master’s degree in security studies at University College London, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Washington Post noted Papadopoulos’s young age and lack of experience, pointing out that the newly minted campaign adviser listed participating in the 2012 Geneva International Model United Nations as one of his awards and honors. His profile says he is currently working as an independent policy consultant focused on oil and gas.