Grand jury returns new charges against former Trump campaign chairman

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a five-count superseding indictment Friday that accuses former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of paying a group of “senior European politicians” to lobby members of Congress on behalf of the then-Russia backed government of Ukraine.

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The plan, the indictment said, was for the group to appear to be presenting U.S. officials and others with independent assessments of controversial actions taken by the Ukrainians “when in fact they were paid lobbyists.”

Manafort allegedly paid the European politicians millions from offshore accounts that should have been disclosed to the United States.

The fresh round of charges against Manafort contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

In Friday’s filing, the special counsel’s office accuses Manafort of paying a group of former European leaders more than 2 million euros to lobby on behalf of Ukraine in 2012. Manafort offered payment to the former leaders – known informally as the “Hapsburg group” – in exchange for them to appear to be providing independent assessments of Ukraine’s government.

The latest charges come against Manafort as his former colleague, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court and has agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Gates, a one-time Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty to two felony counts: conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities.

Manafort said Gates’ plea does not affect his position on his own case.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence. I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise,” Manafort said in a statement. “This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

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