Democrats pounced Monday as long-awaited indictments were handed down against Paul Manafort and an associate by a grand jury investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion and obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates both reportedly turned themselves in to FBI investigators Monday morning.
“The Chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign and his deputy have been charged with conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, and making false statements – all related to their work to promote a pro-Putin regime,” Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a prepared statement.
“Paul Manafort and Rick Gates ran Trump’s campaign and continued to be a part of his inner circle after Election Day. This underscores the seriousness of the investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. It’s time for Republicans to commit to protecting this investigation and preserving the rule of law.”
Trump over the weekend sent out an “angry barrage” of tweets pointing the finger at Democrats and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he beat in the 2016 election — winning the electoral vote but not the popular vote.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller has been leading a special counsel investigation into whether Russia, at the behest of President Vladimir Putin, influenced American voters in favor of Trump during the 2016 campaign, using social media, hacking the email accounts of top Democrats and working with members of the Trump campaign.
Trump has long denied any collusion between his campaign and any Russians working to sway voters, calling Mueller’s probe a witch hunt and the entire investigation a hoax.
Monday morning Trump tweeted the focus should be on “Crooked Hillary”.
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?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat and the Chief Deputy Whip, called Monday’s indictments a good first step, also calling for an independent commission:
“Protecting our democracy from being undermined from overseas is not a partisan issue; it’s a national security imperative,” DeGette said in a prepared statement. “We need to know the extent of Russia’s influence on the U.S. electoral system and how to stop it from happening again.
“Indictments by the Special Counsel’s office are a step in that process, as are the faltering but still ongoing congressional investigations. But we also need an independent commission that can examine the issue and make recommendations to prevent further interference.”