Robert Mueller's Team Brings More Charges Against Manafort, Gates
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed new charges against President Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his associate, Rick Gates. The charges were unsealed last night, and we've got NPR's Ryan Lucas in our studios to tell us more about this. Hey, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: All right. So new charges for Manafort and Gates - more than two dozen of them. What can you say about them?
LUCAS: Well, this is a 32-count indictment. Sixteen of the charges are related to false income tax returns. There are a bunch of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges. There's also the failure to report foreign bank accounts. Now, these are additional charges for Manafort and Gates brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. This is on top of the 12 counts that were filed against both of the men in federal court in Washington, D.C., in October, as you may recall. The special counsel then accused them of running a complex money laundering scheme - global scale, worth tens of millions of dollars.
Many of those charges in the initial indictment are financial in nature, so money laundering, conspiracy to launder money. Others are failing to register as a foreign agent. They have pleaded not guilty to those original charges.
LUCAS: On the new charges, a spokesman for Manafort says he's innocent of these allegations, and he's confident that he'll be acquitted. But the new indictment compounds these very serious legal troubles that both men already have. And it really increases the pressure on them.
MARTIN: Right. So you say that both Gates and Manafort have pled not guilty to these new charges.
LUCAS: To the original charges.
MARTIN: To the original charges.
MARTIN: So there had been all this talk, though, that Rick Gates, that there was this possibility that he could plead guilty. So what - where does that stand now? What do these new charges tell us about the likelihood that he would take a plea deal?
LUCAS: There has been a lot of noise around Gates and his legal team, and he's been in a dispute with his lawyers who petitioned to leave the case. Gates said yesterday in court papers that he's OK with that, that he has a new attorney. That's kind of the nitty-gritty detailed version of this. The big picture is that Gates has a young family. He's tight on cash, and he has these serious legal fees that are really kind of mounting. He's been meeting quietly with prosecutors in recent weeks. That's fueled speculation, as you noted, that he might be close to pleading guilty. There's nothing public at this point that a deal has been reached. And it would be surprising to see this sort of tranche of new charges if there is a deal.
LUCAS: Legal experts say that it's generally better to get a deal locked up before you face new charges. And here we have a new 32-count indictment.
MARTIN: A 32-count indictment, though, that seemingly on its face doesn't have a whole lot to do with the central inquiry of the special counsel about Russian collusion with possible members of the Trump campaign, right?
LUCAS: Right, right.
MARTIN: So is that something that Republicans then can attack? I mean, is this another case of, as critics would say, the investigation expanding too far beyond its original mandate?
LUCAS: Well, remember, there's always been a part of Mueller's mandate that it can look into matters that arise during the course of the investigation, and these financial issues clearly fit under that umbrella. But remember, Manafort and Gates are not bit players. These are two very high-ranking officials in the Trump campaign. Manafort was the chairman during really the heart of the race. Gates was a senior official in the campaign and later worked on the inauguration. And there are a lot of questions about what they would know about what took place during the heart of the campaign, possible contact with Russians. And this gives Mueller pressure to possibly get them to talk.
MARTIN: NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas for us this morning in studio - thanks, Ryan.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.