>> Former Trump campaign officials facing criminal charges in the Russia investigation two accused of laundering millions of dollars from a Kremlin friendly government. And another pleads guilty to lying about his contacts with Moscow. I'm Andy Sullivan outside the Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC. Where former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to charges that they orchestrated a secret lobbying campaign on behalf of a pro-Russia Ukrainian government.
And then tried to cover up the millions of dollars that they took in payment for that work. That would be huge news on its own, but there’s even more. Court documents also revealing that another aide worked for months to try to set up a meeting with people who claimed to have close ties to the Kremlin.
That man, George Papadopoulos, pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, and apparently he's now cooperating in the Russia probe. Now Trump is saying that none of this touches him directly, but that doesn't mean he's in the clear. This is almost certainly the leading edge of the Russia probe.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller charged that Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates funneled more than $75 million through dozens of shell companies Trying to avoid taxes and cover up their political work for former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin friendly leader who was forced out of office in the 2014 revolution.
They say Manafort used that money to pay for luxury properties, home renovations, clothing, and Range Rovers. Bail was set at $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates. Both were ordered to home confinement. Trump saying on Twitter the charges do not show his campaign working with Russia to help win last year's election.
But the second set of charges raises that possibility, Mueller's office revealing Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with an unnamed professor who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. And a woman who we thought was Russian President's Vladimir Putin's niece. He's admitting that he tried for several months to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin in Moscow.
And agreeing that Trump campaign officials encouraged these discussions. Documents indicate he's been cooperating with the probe for months, a sign that Mueller is going after more senior Trump campaign officials. At the White House, Press Secretary, Sara Huckabee Sanders referred to Papadopoulos as a volunteer who had no official capacity in the campaign.
>> Any actions that he took would have been on his own.>> The Russia investigation has been a thorn in the President's side even before he took office. And it's clearly rattled him, even though most of his supporters see it as fake news, ginned up by Democrats who are still bitter that they lost the election.
We're not clearly entering a new phase, moving past speculation and dealing with evidence that must be able to stand up in court.