President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates surrendered to the FBI Monday, as special counsel Robert Mueller announced the first indictments in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Both Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against them in a 12-count indictment, which included money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government and conspiracy against the United States. The arrests came as authorities announced a third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI. Papadopoulos is cooperating with investigators in exchange for a more lenient sentence. According to his plea deal, Papadopoulos was told that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and through a series of communications with foreign agents, he tried to facilitate communication between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. At the White House, spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday the indictments have nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity. She also said Trump was not planning to fire Mueller, as many conservative news outlets have demanded.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “The president said last week—I believe it was last week—and I’ve said several times before, there’s no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to special counsel. But look, today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.”
On Twitter, President Trump lashed out, writing, “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? ....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” The president’s tweets came before news broke of George Papadopoulos’s indictment, and Trump has not tweeted since then. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders warned the White House against firing special counsel Mueller. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “Congress must respond swiftly and unequivocally in a bipartisan way to assure that the investigation will continue.” We’ll have more on the Russia probe and Mueller’s indictments after headlines.