>> Step off to the side please.>> Robert Mueller means business. The former FBI director is leading the probe into the president's alleged possible ties to Russia. And bringing criminal charges sends a message that Mueller's investigation will go wherever the evidence leads. On Monday former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts, including tax fraud.
The charges stem from financial transactions going back before DonaldTrump was a candidate, something the White House was quick to point out.>> Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity.>> Out of the way, guys.>> But legal experts said the indictments show Mueller is ready to delve deeply into the past and use his powers broadly.
Mueller was appointed by US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May. The decision to create a special counsel came after Trump fired FBI director James Comey who had been investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump has called the investigation a witch hunt.
Russia denies interfering in the election. Mueller was given a mandate to probe potential collusion and quote, any means that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. On Monday court papers revealed Mueller had secured a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos admitted he lied to FBI agents about his contacts with foreign nationals, who he believed were tied to the Russian government. A former FBI agent told Reuters the indictments show Mueller was not going to bow to White House pressure.