(RNN) - The White House press secretary dismissed questions on connections between President Donald Trump and the charges facing former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, as well as a campaign adviser who admitted reaching out to Russian officials.
"Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the indictments of Manafort and Rick Gates.
Manafort and Gates, his longtime business partner, face 12 charges, including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering and acting as an unregistered agent for a foreign country. They both pleaded not guilty to all the charges in a Washington, DC, courtroom Monday, and the government has requested $10 million bail for Manafort and $5 million for Gates.
Amid the fallout, prominent Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta resigned from his firm late Sunday, the Associate Press reports. Podesta's firm lobbied on behalf of the European Center for a Modern Ukraine between 2012 and 2014, which prosecutors allege was a front for the Ukrainian government.
It was the first charges resulting from the investigation into possible collusion between the president's campaign and the Russian government. The indictments from the federal grand jury had come Friday but remained sealed until Monday.
Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, has headed the Justice Department's investigation since being appointed as special counsel in May. The investigation has wide latitude in what it can investigate, and the charges in the indictment did not specify ties to any Trump campaign actions.
Sanders described George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, as a volunteer who only met one time for a committee meeting. Federal court documents released Monday showed Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents in a January interview.
The DOJ filing said Papadopoulos was untruthful about when a meeting took place with a professor connected to Russian officials to discuss thousands of emails worth of "dirt" they claimed to have on Hillary Clinton. As part of the guilty plea, Papadopoulos admitted he had tried to set up a meeting between members of the campaign and Russian officials while he was working as an adviser.
He described in multiple emails to Trump campaign officials that he had met with Russia's ambassador in London and a Russian national he referred to as "Putin's niece."
"After several weeks of further communications regarding a potential 'off the record' meeting with Russian officials, on or about Aug. 15, 2016, the campaign supervisor told defendant Papadopoulos that 'I would encourage you' and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to 'make the trip, if it is feasible,'" the court document stated.
Sanders maintained through repeated questions that Papadopoulos was acting on his own. The court filing stated Papadopoulos has met with the government on numerous occasions since his arrest in July, to "provide information and answer questions."
According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of the pro-Russia Ukraine government, earning tens of millions of dollars for their work. More than $75 million "flowed though" overseas accounts, the indictment stated, and money was laundered through U.S. companies, foreign companies and bank accounts.
"The White House has been saying for weeks the special counsel is moving far more quickly and deliberatively than people have been reporting," said the Trump administration in a statement. "The fact that the special counsel is actively performing its duties does not come as a surprise to the White House."
Court filings stated Manafort and Gates laundered money they received from Ukraine from 2006 through at least 2016. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, rising to the role of chairman, but resigned in August that year. His resignation came amid reports of $12 million in undisclosed payments to him from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The FBI performed a no-knock raid of Manafort's Alexandria, VA, home in August.
President Donald Trump said Monday on Twitter, "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!" Trump added.
U.S. investigators also wiretapped Manafort in 2014, before he became a part of Trump's campaign, CNN reported. It was authorized under secret court orders, and it continued until early this year, after Trump was in the White House.
Sources said the FBI investigation initially centered on work done by Washington consulting firms working for Ukraine's former ruling party. A second warrant was part of FBI efforts to investigate suspected ties between the president's campaign associates and possible Russian operatives.
The special counsel was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and the president fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller impaneled a grand jury in August.
Manafort took part in a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in July 2016, during the campaign. Jared Kushner, White House adviser and Trump's son-in-law, also attended. Emails released by Donald Trump Jr. showed he was told the meeting would provide damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and that the intelligence was coming from the Russian government.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia launched a wide-ranging offensive to interfere in the 2016 election, including hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's email, to hurt Clinton and aid Trump. The president has continued to deny any wrongdoing, calling the investigation a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."
All of this "Russia" talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017
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