Among Charges Against Manafort Is 'Conspiracy Against The United States'

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

NPR has confirmed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has surrendered to the FBI this morning, along with a former business associate, Rick Gates. This follows a months-long investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller looking into possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Paul Manafort has repeatedly dodged questions about any links between the Trump campaign and Russia. President Trump for his part has at times tried to minimize Manafort's connection to his campaign, although he defended him this past August.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man. And he's like a lot of other people - probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows? I don't know.

MARTIN: Joining me now in the studio, NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Ryan, do we know yet at this point what Paul Manafort is being charged with?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: We actually just received word from the special counsel's office on a list of charges. They include conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, making false statements - false and misleading statements - regarding his work as a foreign lobbyist. And there are seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

MARTIN: What do those charges mean? What sentences could they bring?

LUCAS: Well, what they mean is that Manafort is likely in a great deal of trouble. And it's also worth noting that his business associate Rick Gates is somebody who's also been charged in this. We're going to have an initial appearance in court later today. And then I think we'll be able to kind of get a better idea of what this all means and how it's going to suss out.

MARTIN: Can you remind us about who Paul Manafort is? This is someone - he's been a longtime lobbyist. He's done a lot of work in foreign countries. Clearly, that is playing into what we're seeing now in the charges today.

LUCAS: Right. So Manafort worked as a Republican political strategist back in the late '70s, early '80s. He then founded a lobbying firm in Washington, worked for a lot of kind of unsavory characters, one might say, over the course of the '80s and early '90s. Then in the 2000s, he ended up going to Ukraine, where he provided political advice to a pro-Russian politician named Viktor Yanukovych, who ended up winning the Ukrainian presidency in 2010 and then was overthrown in popular protests several years later and then fled to Russia. But it does seem that a lot of the legal trouble that Manafort is in may tie into his time in Ukraine. But, again, this is stuff that we'll find out as the day proceeds.

MARTIN: And as we mentioned, Donald Trump has at times tried to have it both ways, both defending Paul Manafort when asked directly. But, also, he has distanced himself from Paul Manafort in the past few months.

LUCAS: He certainly has. And to say at one point that you don't really know the man who ran your campaign from June to August of 2014 does seem a bit a bit odd. Now, Manafort did leave the campaign in August after reports about his business dealings in Ukraine emerged.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Ryan Lucas, stay with us. Thanks so much, Ryan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.