Just over five months after former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the first concrete legal actions on that investigation began to play out in Washington, D.C. on Monday morning, as a former foreign policy aide to President Donald Trump’s campaign plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about contacts with Russians, while Mueller also released a 12 count indictment accusing former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and one of his top associates, Richard Gates III, of money laundering, and misleading investigators.
Click here to read the unsealed guilty plea involving a former foreign policy aide to the Trump campaign, who has admitted lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia during the 2016 election campaign:
Here is the latest on today’s developments:
4:45 pm – What was discussed at lunch? The White House says today’s indictments, and one guilty plea for misleading investigators, was not on the agenda when President Trump had lunch with Vice President Pence and Attorney General Sessions.
4:05 pm – More and more, Democrats are zeroing in on the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, and what it might mean for the Russia probe of Special Counsel Mueller, arguing it shows the outreach going on from the Trump Campaign to Russian interests. “The George Papadopoulos information is completely new,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
3:55 pm – Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) tells reporters he wants Special Counsel Mueller to keep pushing on the Russia investigation. His colleague, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) reserves judgment on the Manafort/Gates indictments, and then quickly segues into GOP calls for investigations into Hillary Clinton.
3:30 pm – And here in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol, some GOP lawmakers not eager to comment on the day’s events. The Senate is in session today; the House is back Tuesday.
3:25 pm – House Speaker Paul Ryan echoes his earlier comments on a Wisconsin radio station about the day’s events related to the Russia investigation, as he says he has not read the legal papers involved with Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos.
3:20 pm – After the arraignment for their clients in a federal courtroom not far from the White House, lawyers for both Manafort and Gates have told reporters that there was no wrongdoing involved.
2:10 pm – If you don’t know who George Papadopoulos is, most people here in D.C. probably don’t either. He was described by President Trump last year as an “excellent guy.” Mr. Trump tweeted out this photo of a meeting that Papadopoulos participated in about national security in March 2016 – Papadopoulos is highlighted with the orange arrow.
1:55 pm – Manafort and Gates are in a federal court in Washington, D.C., and have plead not guilty to today’s charges.
1:50 pm – Asked about the role of George Papadopoulos, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly downplays his importance, saying he was a volunteer, who had an extremely limited role on the 2016 Trump Campaign.
1:45 pm – After an extended statement on tax reform, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is asked about today’s indictments of Manafort and Gates, and the guilty plea of Papadopoulos. She says the legal announcements have nothing to do with the 2016 Trump Campaign, and again says the only evidence of collusion is related to Hillary Clinton.
11:15 am – House Speaker Paul Ryan, appearing on the “Jerry Bader Show” back in Wisconsin, said little about today’s developments in the Russia investigation.
10:50 am – Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, who was fired by President Trump, had this to say about the guilty plea of a former Trump Campaign aide:
10:35 am – The documents related to a former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, contain some interesting references to his efforts to connect high-ranking campaign officials with people in Russia. The documents also show that Papadopoulos was arrested in July, and seems to have been cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
10:30 am – President Trump weighs in via Twitter:
10:20 am – There is more happening today in the Russia investigation. A former Trump foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos has plead guilty to making false statements to the feds in the Russia investigation.
10:15 am – It might be an interesting day to have lunch at the White House. Getting together for lunch will be the President, Vice President, and the Attorney General.
10:10 am – If you’re just tuning in, the indictments today are of Paul Manafort, the former Trump Campaign manager, and one of Manafort’s top aides, Richard Gates.
10:05 am – Most Republican members of Congress are talking about tax reform or other issues today on social media, and sidestepping this first round of indictments.
10:00 am – For the most part, the reaction to today’s events is breaking predictably along party lines in the Congress. Democrats see everything as a big flashing red light about the Trump Campaign and President Trump’s time in office. “A sobering, shattering moment as Special Counsel moves to the courtroom,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
9:50 am – Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer is warning President Donald Trump not to interfere in the work of the Special Counsel.
9:45 am – The basics of the charges rolled out today by the Special Counsel:
9:30 am – It should be pointed out that there is no mention anywhere in the indictment of the issues of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia, and Trump supporters are noting that on social media.
9:27 am – It should not be a surprise that Democrats look at today’s developments in a much different way than GOP lawmakers in the Congress.
9:25 am – The title of the very first charge in the indictment brings a sober tone to the overall investigation:
9:10 am – Read the indictments here.
9:08 am – We now have the first inkling of what charges are being brought against Paul Manafort:
9:05 am – For those wondering how Mueller could deal with subjects that are not directly involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the statute governing a Special Counsel is very clear, that the probe can veer into other areas if alleged wrongdoing is found.
9:00 am – Some Republicans are not enthused with the day’s early developments, not pleased that Mueller may have used a fine tooth comb to find legal problems which may have existed before Manafort worked for the Trump campaign. “To taint Donald Trump with things that Manafort did before the campaign, I think is a leap too far,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) in an interview on CNN.
8:50 am – Some of the first reaction in from a Republican in Congress, as Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) makes clear that he wants no political interference in the Mueller investigation.
8:45 am – Both Manafort and one of his former associates, Rick Gates, have reportedly now arrived at the federal courthouse, which is located just a few blocks down the hill from the U.S. Capitol.
8:00 am – The day began with television cameras and reporters staking out various places in the Washington, D.C. area, as former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was driven to the federal courthouse in the nation’s capital.
7:37 am – With news reports indicating that something was going to happen today about the Mueller investigation, President Trump was again tweeting about a possible investigation into Hillary Clinton and Democrats, concerning efforts to gather opposition research on him during the 2016 campaign.