Manafort, Gates Plead Not Guilty to Charges in Mueller Probe

WASHINGTON (CN) – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Richard Gates pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon to charges of conspiracy and money laundering in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election meddling.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson placed Manafort and Gates under house arrest, issuing a $10 million unsecured appearance bond for Manafort, and a $5 million bond for Gates.  Both promised to make all court appearances and abide by the terms of their home confinement program, which require daily check-in.

Prosecutor Greg Andres with special counsel Mueller’s office argued that Manafort and Gates are flight risks. Manafort is facing up to 181 months in prison on money laundering charges alone, while Gates faces up to 151 months in prison.

Andres said the special counsel’s office had a “difficult time” ascertaining the assets of both Manafort and Gates in relation to making a bail recommendation.

According to Andres, Manafort has somewhere between $20 – $100 million in assets based on loan documents. Gates has somewhere between $2 – $30 million, he said.

“We need a better understanding of what their assets are,” he said.

Manafort and Gates wore navy blue suits, with Manafort sporting a cobalt blue tie and Gates opting not to wear one. Both appeared calm for the duration of the arraignment.

Downing told Judge Robinson that Manafort had surrendered his passport to the FBI on Sunday. Gates also surrendered his passport, and neither area allowed to apply for a new one for the duration of the proceedings.

Outside the court later, attorney Downing downplayed the seriousness of the charges and called them “ridiculous.”

“President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government,” Downing said.

Mueller’s office, he added, is using a “novel theory” to prosecute Manafort and Gates under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which he said has only been used six times since 1966 and has resulted in a single conviction.

The government’s claim that Manafort and Gates maintained offshore accounts to bring their funds into the United States as a scheme to conceal them is “ridiculous,” he said.

.National security attorney Mark Zaid said Monday’s indictments raise the stakes for everyone within Mueller’s sphere of investigation.

“The indictment sends a message to anyone within the investigative sphere that peripheral matters that might be unrelated to allegations of Russian collusion in the election will nonetheless still be criminally pursued,” he said in an email. “It raises the stakes for everyone that their activities, especially financial, are vulnerable to exposure.

“More importantly, it reinforces as is always the case that false or misleading statements to federal investigators will invariably be an individual’s undoing,” he continued. “If anything what this indictment says to President Trump’s lawyers is to keep him away from an interview at all costs for as long as possible.”

Manafort and Gates will make their next appearance in court on Thursday at 2 p.m. for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

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