'The Hapsburg Group': Mueller Says Manafort Secretly Paid European Leaders


A former senior official involved in United States President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign on Friday pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the country and lying to investigators inquiring into alleged Russian meddling in the polls, Reuters reported.

Photo Paul Manafort leaving Federal District Court in Washington previous year.

The judge said Gates faces between 57 and 71 months in prison for his offenses, though his sentence depends on the extent to which he cooperates with investigators.

Throughout the 45-minute plea hearing Friday in Washington, prosecutors framed Gates as an assistant in criminal activity, doing Manafort's bidding.

Meanwhile, Mueller's office filed a superseding indictment against Manafort, charging him with paying former European politicians to lobby in the United States on behalf of a pro-Russia political faction in Ukraine.

Manafort called the Hapsburg Group's lobbying effort "SUPER VIP" in an "EYES ONLY" memo cited in the new indictment.

He also is expected to plead guilty about lying regarding a meeting Mr Manafort reportedly had with a member of Congress and a lobbyist in 2013 to discuss Ukraine. "For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise", Manafort said Friday.

In a statement Friday, Manafort said, "Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pleaded today, I continue to maintain my innocence".

With his cooperation, Gates gives Mueller a witness willing to provide information on Manafort's finances and political consulting work in Ukraine - and someone who had access at the highest levels of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The indictment says Manafort and Gates secretly wired the law firm $4 million from an offshore account-money that allegedly wasn't disclosed in the report.

On February 16, California native Pinedo plead guilty to identity fraud and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.

Manafort resigned as Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016 after The New York Times reported a Ukrainian government corruption probe found Manafort received almost $13 million off the books from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. They also were accused of failing to register as agents of a foreign government. Two months after Manafort left the campaign, according to the court documents, his accountant e-mailed him a question about whether he had any foreign bank accounts. But Gates was present for the most significant periods of activity of the campaign, as Trump began developing policy positions and his digital operation engaged with millions of voters on platforms such as Facebook.

Gates admitted he was part of a conspiracy to hide tens of millions of dollars that he and Manafort received for lobbying and consulting work related to Ukrainian politicians who are strong allies of Russian Federation.

But just yesterday, a federal grand jury in Virginia piled on a separate indictment against the two, listing 32 total counts, including charges relating to false income tax returns and bank fraud.

Gates's plea deal came together over the past few days, according to people familiar with the process. Van der Zwaan admitted to lying about a September 2016 conversation with Gates about work for a Ukrainian political party.