Paul Manafort under house arrest after pleading not guilty to $75m money-laundering charges – as Trump insists it is NOTHING to do with him

Paul Manafort under house arrest after pleading not guilty to $75m money-laundering charges – as Trump insists it is NOTHING to do with him. By David Martosko.

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, both former campaign aides to Donald Trump, have been confined to their homes in Virginia as they await trials on a laundry list of federal felony charges.

The pair entered not guilty pleas Monday afternoon in a federal courtroom, telling a magistrate judge that they’ll fight the Justice Department in court. …

Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, is a veteran lobbyist now charged with conspiring against the United States and money-laundering on a gigantic scale, following an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Along with Gates, his longtime business partner and protege, Manafort surrendered to federal authorities early on Monday as the first charges from the probe of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election were unsealed.

Manafort is free on $10 million bond and Gates agreed to a $5 million bond. Both will be on ‘home detention’ as a condition of their release, and they have surrendered their passports. They are expected back in court on Thursday. …

The government alleges that at least $75 million was moved by Manafort to offshore accounts without declaring the income to the government. From there Manafort allegedly withdrew $18 million to fund a lavish lifestyle, and Gates is accused of pulling out another $3 million. …

An angry Trump washed his hands of Manafort on Monday morning.

‘Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,’ Trump tweeted after the charges were unsealed. ‘But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????’

‘Also, there is NO COLLUSION!’ he insisted. …

The charges pending against Manafort, 68, and Gates, 45, are related to ‘business activities, not campaign activities,’ he said. …

Trump’s defiant tweet, and his reference to Clinton who faces her own claims of receiving dirty Russian money, sets the stage for a showdown with Mueller which led on Monday morning to Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, calling for legislative moves to prevent the special counsel from being fired.

The indictment is purely focused on alleged financial crimes and does not include any charges related to the broader question that formed the basis of Mueller’s investigation – whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 election in his favor.

It describes criminal allegations that predate the Trump campaign; Trump’s name is not mentioned in the 31-page document. …

‘Today, you see an indictment brought by an office of special counsel that is using a very novel theory to prosecute Mr. Manafort, regarding a FARA filing. The United States government has only used that offense six times since 1966, and only resulted in one conviction,’ [Kevin Downing, attorney for Paul Manafort,] declared.

‘The second thing about this indictment that I myself find most ridiculous is a claim that maintaining offshore accounts to bring all your funds into the United States as a scheme to conceal from the United States government is ridiculous,’ he said.

So after a year of media talk about collusion with Russia, Mueller’s indictment is for tax evasion involving the Ukraine in 2013 by one-time Trump campaigners Manafort and Gates. If this is the best Mueller can find, presumably Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Summary: Trump hired a tax cheat, and later fired him.