Ex-Trump aides charged as Russia probe accelerates
U.S. federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election charged President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering on Oct. 30, as Russia denied the next day accusations of its interference in the U.S. elections.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates appeared in court on Oct. 30, pleading not guilty to conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and several other charges after the indictments in the Russia probe were unsealed.
The pair was released on bail of $10 million and $5 million respectively and placed under house arrest.
Controversy: Social media companies and ads
Facebook Inc said on Oct. 30 that Russia-based operatives published about 80,000 posts on the social network over a two-year period in an effort to sway U.S. politics and that about 126 million Americans may have seen the posts during that time.
Facebook’s latest data on the Russia-linked posts - possibly reaching around half of the U.S. population of voting age - far exceeds the company’s previous disclosures. It was included in written testimony provided to U.S. lawmakers, and seen by Reuters, ahead of key hearings with social media and technology companies about Russian meddling in elections on Capitol Hill this week.
Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, said the posts violated Facebook’s terms of service, and any amount of such activity using fake accounts is too much.
Twitter Inc separately has found 2,752 accounts linked to Russian operatives, a source familiar with the company’s written testimony said.
Another Trump aide pleads guilty
Separately, another former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Kremlin-related contacts, according to a plea deal revealed on Oct. 30.
The unsealed indictments were an explosive opening salvo from independent counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe, after months of speculation, spin and obfuscation about possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said yesterday it had noted that U.S. charges against Manafort and Gates did not point the finger at Russia over alleged meddling in U.S. politics.Additionally, Russia’s foreign minister yesterday said there was no evidence the country had interfered in U.S. elections.
“We are accused of interfering not only in U.S. elections but also in those of other countries without one piece of evidence,” Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
Manafort, 68, and Rick Gates, 45, were charged with allegedly hiding millions of dollars gleaned from work with Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow political party.Papadopoulos, a former Trump foreign policy advisor, admitted he tried to hide contacts with a Moscow-linked professor who was offering “dirt” on Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton.The revelations prompted a furious and defiant reaction from Trump, who dismissed allegations of collusion and called on Clinton to be investigated.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” Trump tweeted. “....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” But, Papadopoulos revealed that he informed Trump and others personally that he could organize a meeting between the then candidate and Russian President Vladimir Putin.The ex-advisor told the FBI that he had been instructed by an unnamed “campaign supervisor” to meet Russian officials “off the record” if “feasible.”