Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are the first arrests in the FBI’s special investigation into Russian meddling in the last US election. Manafort was the campaign manager for president Donald Trump from April to August of 2016, and Gates a former Trump campaign aide.
Manafort and Gates have both told to surrender to federal authorities, according to multiple reports. Charges against Manafort include tax fraud (paywall), and further details are expected today. Manafort was spotted walking into an FBI building in Washington, DC on Monday morning.
Gates, a former Manafort business partner, reportedly helped to plan Trump’s inauguration, and joined a pro-Trump political action committee called “America First Policies” soon after. He quit in March, as Trump advisors were examining his close ties to Manafort. He continued to make visits to the White House, however, in the company of Tom Barrack, a Trump donor and long-time friend.
Manafort “has long acknowledged providing strategic advice to pro-Russia political parties in the country’s cash-fueled post-independence politics,” as Quartz wrote last year, and was a top advisor to former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych, Dmtry Firtash, who is currently fighting extradition to the US to face bribery charges, and Oleg Deripaska, a Putin-friendly businessman.
In 2006, Manafort signed a $10 million a year contract with Deripaska, an aluminium titan, to lobby for “Putin-friendly oligarchs in Ukraine, and for pro-Russian governments in Georgia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, from 2006 through at least 2009.” Deripaska and Manafort have been estranged since 2014. Manafort was fired by Trump in summer 2016 after revelations of the deal came out.
In July, as Manafort and Gates were working for Trump, Trump staffers altered the Republican party’s platform to weaken support for Ukraine. A promise of “lethal defensive weapons” to protect Ukraine was eliminated, and in its place was only a vow of “appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.” Russia and Ukraine are involved in a civil war over the territory of Crimea, which was invaded by Russian troops in recent years.
The two arrests are expected to the be first of many in the FBI’s investigation.