Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and an associate pleaded not guilty Monday to charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Dressed sharply in a dark suit and cerulean necktie, longtime political consultant Paul Manafort was led into a second-floor courtroom in a federal district court building two blocks from the Capitol on Monday afternoon.
He was barely audible to the rest of the courtroom when he affirmed to U.S. District Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson that he understood the charges brought against him.
His attorney, Kevin Downing, and a public defender representing Rick Gates both entered not guilty pleas to all charges in the indictments, which charged the two men with conspiracy against the U.S., acting as unregistered agents of “foreign principals,” and several other financial crimes, alleging that they laundered millions of dollars earned from their political work in Ukraine.
They are the only charges to emerge so far from the broad investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russia. Though the indictment did not mention Trump or his campaign, it was also announced on Monday that another Trump campaign aide, foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with “foreign nationals” apparently linked to high levels of the Russian government.
A spokesperson for Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy who was involved with the Trump campaign on an ad hoc basis, said in a statement on Monday that Gates “welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court.”
The spokesperson, Glenn Selig, also suggested that “this unexpected and hasty proceeding” was “designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations.”
Downing described the charges as “ridiculous” in a statement to reporters after the court hearing.