President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's longtime business associate Rick Gates will surrender today to federal authorities in Washington, D.C., according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Manafort and Gates would be the first charges in the special counsel's five-month investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
Manafort originally emerged as a key figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry because of consulting work he did in 2014 on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
In July -- the same month in which he registered as a foreign agent because of his lobbying work -- the FBI executed a search warrant at Manafort’s Virginia home, stemming from the Russia investigation. A source familiar with the matter described armed FBI agents’ waking Manafort early in the morning as they knocked on his bedroom door.
Manafort, 68, joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as the campaign’s convention manager and was promoted to campaign chairman two months later.
He stepped away from the campaign in August 2016 amid questions about his foreign business ties. At the time, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau released scans of 22 entries from the ledgers of so-called “black accounts” which listed Manafort's name next to payments totaling $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012 for his work tied to pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The story was first reported by the New York Times.
Gates, 45, worked for Manafort’s international firm, Davis Manafort Partners, between 2006 and 2007. Gates’ connections to Trump before and after the election include his leading operations at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, serving as deputy chairman on the 2017 Presidential Inauguration Committee and joining the nonprofit America First Policies created after the election.
Mueller was appointed special counsel in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in March from all matters related to last year's presidential election.
In addition to the action taken by Mueller's team, Manafort has been heavily scrutinized by the multiple congressional committees conducting their own investigations into Russian meddling. In August, sources close to Manafort told ABC News that the former campaign manager provided the committees with about 400 documents, including paperwork related to Ukraine.
CNN first reported last week that a federal grand jury in Washington had approved the charge brought by Mueller’s team.
Trump seemed to react over the weekend to the news of a potential charge, tweeting, as he has previously, that the investigation was a “witch hunt” promoted by Democrats. He further seemed to suggest that it was a distraction from items on his administration’s agenda, such as tax reform.
President Trump’s attorney Ty Cobb later swatted down any connection.
“Contrary to what many have suggested, the president’s comments today are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate,” Cobb said in a statement to the White House press pool.
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.