Washington (CNN)A former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser has pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after he lied about his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government — the campaign’s clearest connection so far to Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
In court records unsealed on Monday, the FBI said George Papadopoulos “falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed ‘dirt’ related to emails” concerning Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Records also describe an email between Trump campaign officials suggesting they were considering acting on Russian invitations to go to Russia.
In addition, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates surrendered Monday to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.
The charges against top officials from Trump’s campaign signals a dramatic new phase of Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s team as well as potential obstruction of justice and financial crimes.
Papadopoulos’ guilty plea brings the Mueller probe into actions that occurred during the 2016 campaign. The charges against Manafort and Gates are unrelated to the Trump campaign, though it’s possible Mueller could add additional charges.
Gates, 45, is a longtime business associate of Manafort, 68. The pair worked together since the mid-2000s, and Gates served as Manafort’s deputy on the campaign. The two were indicted under seal on Friday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
President Donald Trump distanced himself from Manafort on Monday morning, asking why Clinton wasn’t being investigated.
“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?????” He soon added: “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
He tweeted before Papadopoulos’ guilty plea was unsealed.
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