U.S. soldier killed in Niger may have been executed, report says

Two villagers who said they were among the first to find the body of Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger last month recalled discovering the body with a gaping head wound and the soldier’s hands tied, a report said Friday.

The Washington Post reported that the villagers’ accounts raise the possibility that Johnson was first captured in the Oct. 4 ambush before being killed.

“His two arms were tied behind his back,” Adamou Boubacar, 23, a farmer, told the paper in a phone interview. Another witness told the paper separately that the back of Johnson’s head “was a mess, as if they had hit him with something hard, like a hammer. They took his shoes. He was wearing only socks.”

Johnson, 25, was one of the four U.S. soliders killed in an ambush believed to have been orchestrated by militants linked to the Islamic State group in Niger. The attack took place outside a remote village called Tongo Tongo.

Air support from French jets took an hour to arrive at the scene and the soldiers, who were joined by 30 Nigerian troops, had started to run out of ammunition, the report said.

An unnamed U.S. military official told the paper that Johnson’s hands were not tied when Americans received his body, but the body was battered. The official warned about rushing to judgement until the investigations are completed.

Sharon Wright (C) is aided by family after at the viewing of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, at Christ The Rock Church in Cooper City, Florida, October 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Joe Skipper - RC1EAFB6C6F0

Oct. 20: Sharon Wright, Johnson’s aunt, is aided by family after viewing the body.  (Reuters)

The Pentagon and FBI are conducting a probe into the ambush to determine if any errors were made in intelligence prior to the mission.

The Post, citing an unnamed U.S. military official, reported that it appears that the soldiers’ mission was changed after they left the base and were sent to assist another team in taking out a top ISIS target called Dadou. Five Nigerian soldiers were also killed in the ambush.

Boubacar told the paper that Johnson’s remains were found on Oct. 6, two days after the ambush. The bodies of the other three soldiers, believed to have been killed in action, were reportedly found just hours after the fight, the report said.

Myeshia Johnson, wife of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, receives the flag which draped his coffin at a graveside service in Hollywood, Florida, October 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Joe Skipper - RC1BF481DE30

Myeshia Johnson, wife of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, receives the flag which draped his coffin at a graveside service in Hollywood, Florida  (Reuters)

Johnson’s death made headlines after President Trump’s phone call with his widow. The call lead to a public dispute between the Trump administration and Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson over comments the president made during the call.

Wilson called Trump’s remarks “insensitive” and Trump said she “fabricated” what he said.

Courtesy: Fox News

U.S. Risks ‘Coup’ if Mueller Investigation Continues, Republicans Warn

Graham Lanktree

,

Newsweek

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia in its effort to interfere in the 2016 election amounts to an attempt to overthrow the government, Republicans have argued.

“We are at risk of a coup d’etat in this country if we allow an unaccountable person, with no oversight, to undermine the duly-elected President of the United States,” said Florida Congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz from the chamber floor.

He was joined by other members of the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-right group of Republicans, who brought a motion last week calling for Mueller step down because of “obvious conflicts of interest.” The measure wouldn’t be binding, but it would put the House on record in opposition to Mueller.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has begun issuing indictments in his Russia investigation. One law professor is arguing that the probe should not be taking place because Mueller was appointed illegally. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Their motion came the same week Mueller’s legal team made its first arrests in the investigation, indicting Trump campaign’s former chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business associate Richard Gates on 12 charges, including money laundering.

On Wednesday, the Republicans laid out their case for why Mueller must go. “We’ve got to clean this town up, and it will start with the resignation of Mr. Mueller and a proper investigation of all of this underlying case involving Comey, Lynch, the Clintons, and Russia,” said Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert.

The group argued that Mueller has a conflict of interest because he headed the FBI during an investigation into corruption at a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned atomic energy company Rosatom.

Don’t miss: The Forever War: U.S. Military Now Has 15,000 Troops in Afghanistan and That Number Could Soon Increase

While the investigation was ongoing, a nine agency panel, including the State Department, then led by Hillary Clinton, approved the sale of Canadian mining firm Uranium One to Rosatom. The Clinton Foundation later received millions in donations from current and former investors in Uranium One. Critics and former officials point out Clinton was not involved in the approval panel and nevertheless would have had to convince eight other officials to approve the sale.

Read more: The Hillary Clinton Russia Uranium One conspiracy theory doesn’t make any sense

“It is far past time to thoroughly investigate this [Uranium One] deal, the Obama administration’s actions, and the Clinton family’s role,” said California Rep. Scott Perry.

The Congressmen also accused Mueller of having a vendetta against President Donald Trump because he fired former FBI Director James Comey over “this Russia thing.” When Trump fired Comey May 5, the lawman was investigating potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Comey has written in memos that Trump asked him to drop part of his investigation.

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Mueller was appointed to take up that investigation on May 17 by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Mueller can be fired by Rosenstein for conflicts of interest and other infractions.

“Could Mr. Mueller be acting with vengeance? Or to vindicate his good friend and colleague James Comey, who had a very public feud with the president?” asked Congressman Trent Franks from the House floor Wednesday.

“Jim and Bob are friends in the sense that co-workers are friends. They don’t really have a personal relationship,” Comey’s attorney David Kelley has said, pointing out that they have never been to each other’s homes but have had lunch together once and dinner twice during their decade-long overlapping careers at the Department of Justice.

Republican calls for Mueller to step down and for the investigation to shift focus to Hillary Clinton echo the president. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” Trump urged Republicans a day before Manafort was indicted, calling allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia “phony.”

“Why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” Trump tweeted the day Manafort and Gates were arrested. Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly has called for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Clinton.

  • “This is the scandal of our time,” said Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, one of the sponsors of last week’s motion, renewing his call for Mueller’s resignation. “It affects our national security and the views of the American people for justice and on elections.”

Courtesy: Yahoo News

Texas church gunman’s phone recovered, but encryption preventing access, FBI says

The phone used by the gunman who stormed into First Baptist Church on Sunday killing 26 people, including an 18-month-old and an unborn child, has been recovered and turned over to the FBI — but encryption technology is preventing officials from accessing it, authorities said Tuesday.

FBI Special Agent in charge Christopher Combs said the phone Devin Patrick Kelley used to call his father during a high-speed chase after the rampage at the church has been sent to the FBI Academy in Quantico.

“Unfortunately, at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone,” Combs told reporters.

kelley

Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, Texas as pictured in his driver license photo.  (Texas Department of Public Safety)

Combs, who wouldn’t describe the type of phone Kelley had, said it highlights a bigger issue with new technology.

“Law enforcement, whether it’s at the state, local or federal level, is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” he said.

Combs added: “We’re going to keep working on that phone and other digital media we have.”

An official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said there was no evidence to suggest Kelley used a “bump stock” on his gun during the attack, a device used during last month’s mass killing in Las Vegas.

TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTER DEVIN PATRICK KELLEY SERVED IN AIR FORCE, WAS COURT-MARTIALED FOR ASSAULTING WIFE, CHILD

ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski added all indications are Kelley used a semiautomatic weapon, and that it will be test-fired to confirm. Agents processing the crime scene are also examining shell casings to see if they are related to any other crime scenes in the national database.

There is no reason to believe anyone else is involved in the crime, nor that it was motivated by religious beliefs, though Kelley was an atheist, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin.

Martin said officials are still trying to determine if the gunman fired all 450 rounds from the 15 emptied 30-round magazines found at the church scene.

He also did not go into any other detail about previous threats Kelley texted to his mother-in-law, who attended the church but was not there Sunday at the time of the massacre.

TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTING VICTIMS INCLUDE PASTOR’S DAUGHTER, YOUNG CHILDREN

“We have some indication on the conflict in the family,” Martin told reporters, adding there was “still a lot of work to be done.”

While officials in Texas did not discuss Kelley’s bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI to “find out what’s going on.”

Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes such as an assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Kelley was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.

Mattis said the Pentagon must make certain it’s got “the right direction,” and he must “define what the problem is.”

“If the problem is we didn’t put something out, we’ll correct that,” he added.

The gunman also escaped from a behavioral center in southern New Mexico months after the attack on his wife, according to documents obtained by Houston television station KPRC.

Kelley, who was 21-years-old at the time, was picked up at a bus terminal in El Paso on June 7, 2012, after two officers were dispatched to the terminal to look into a missing person report, KPRC reported. The documents obtained by the television station said Kelley had “suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run from Peak Behavioral Health Services.”

In addition to the assault on his wife, authorities in Comal County in Texas — where Kelley lived — confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday they are looking into a report of sexual assault where he was named as a suspect.

Sheriff Mark Reynolds said authorities checked for calls for service at his parent’s address where he lived and discovered a sexual assault complaint from June 2013.

AIR FORCE DIDN’T REPORT TEXAS SHOOTER’S DOMESTIC-VIOLENCE CONVICTION TO FEDERAL DATABASE, ALLOWING HIM TO BUY GUNS

Officials at the time received a call about a sexual assault happening in the county with Devin Kelley named as the perpetrator and that was looked at by investigators until October 2013. The case eventually stalled at the time Kelley moved to Colorado.

Reynolds told Fox News the former administration handling the department and case retired, but authorities are reaching out to the victim of the 2013 incident in the wake of Sunday’s massacre.

Fox News’ Maggie Kerkman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy: Fox News

Trump: DOJ must do ‘what is right and proper’ and investigate Hillary Clinton

President Trump opened up on Democrats with both Twitter barrels from high in the sky Friday, exploiting fractures in the rival party after top operative Donna Brazile revealed insiders plotted to steal last year’s presidential primary from Bernie Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders supporters have every right to be apoplectic of the complete theft of the Dem primary by Crooked Hillary!” Trump tweeted from Air Force One, as he headed off on a 13-day tour of Asian nations.

It was part of a mid-morning Twitter barrage in which Trump called for his own Justice Department to probe a range of scandals involving the Democratic Party and his vanquished 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems,” Trump tweeted early Friday. “New Donna B book says she paid for and stole the Dem Primary. What about the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, the Server, plus, plus…”

In excerpts released Thursday from an upcoming book, Brazile, a longtime party stalwart and Clinton confidante, confirmed longstanding suspicions that the Democratic National Committee she once headed worked with Clinton to ensure she won the party’s presidential primary over Sanders, the Vermont senator who built a huge following with his blend of Democrat politics and socialism.

“I always felt I would be running and winning against Bernie Sanders, not Crooked H, without cheating, I was right,” Trump tweeted.

Brazile’s explosive charge has sent shockwaves through the party.

“I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested,” Brazile wrote in a book excerpt first published in Politico Magazine. “By Sept. 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart.”

The proof, according to Brazile, was a joint fundraising agreement document between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund and Hillary for America. It had been signed in August 2015, four months after Clinton announced her candidacy and a year before she officially secured the nomination over Sanders.

“The agreement –signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC and Robby Mook, with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised,” Brazile wrote. “Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decision on all the other staff.”

DONNA BRAZILE: I FOUND ‘PROOF’ THE DNC RIGGED THE NOMINATION FOR HILLARY CLINTON

Even before Friday morning’s tweetstorm, Trump reacted to the allegations against Clinton on Thursday night on “The Ingraham Angle.”

“It’s illegal, number one, and it’s really unfair to Bernie Sanders,” Trump said. “I’m not a Bernie Sanders fan, although I must say I got a lot of his votes when he was thrown out. Many of those people voted for me because of trade because I agreed with him on trade…But that was, I thought that was terrible.”

“Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.,” Trump tweeted again. ‘Pocahontas,’ when used by the president, is typically in reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN Thursday, Warren, D-Mass., was asked whether she believed the DNC was rigged, to which the senator simply responded, “Yes.”

But on Friday, Trump took the opportunity to add the Brazile bombshell to a list of allegations and situations that he wants his Justice Department to investigate, including her “deleted E-mails” and “the Server,” pointing back to the months-long Clinton email investigation.

Trump also referred to “Uranium,” alluding to the controversial Obama-era Uranium One deal. The 2010 deal concerns the sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to Russia’s Rosatom nuclear company. The U.S. was involved because the sale gave the Russians control of part of the uranium supply in the U.S. Clinton, at the time, was secretary of state.

TRUMP CALLS DNC PRIMARY-RIGGING ‘ILLEGAL,’ SLAMS ‘FAKE’ DOSSIER IN FOX NEWS INTERVIEW

Trump also referred to “Podesta,” though it is unclear if he was referring to Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, or his brother, Clinton’s longtime confidante and 2016 campaign manager John Podesta.

This week, Tony Podesta stepped down from his lobbying firm, which was co-founded with his brother John, in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe expanding to question Podesta’s Foreign Agent Registration (FARA) filings, and whether he was in violation of that law.

A spokesperson for Podesta told Fox News that they were compliant with their FARA filings and were “fully” cooperating with Mueller’s team.

The president tweeted again, moments later, underscoring the need for a federal probe.

“….People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!” Trump tweeted.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Courtesy: Fox News

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Mueller’s ultimate target is Trump. Here’s what could happen next

Earlier this week, the government revealed that a grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C., indicted a former Trump presidential campaign chairman and his former deputy and business partner for numerous felonies.

Both were accused of working as foreign agents and failing to report that status to the federal government, using shell corporations to launder income and obstruction of justice by lying to the federal government.

The financial crimes are alleged to have occurred from 2008 to 2014, and the obstruction charges from 2014 to 2017. At the same time it announced the above, the government revealed that a low-level former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and become a government witness.

Does any of this relate to President Donald Trump? Here is the back story.

At the same time that Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were guiding the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, Russian agents were manipulating American social media sites so as to arouse chaos in general and animosity toward Hillary Clinton in particular. The Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as independent counsel to determine whether any Americans had criminally helped the Russians.

The alleged crimes of Manafort and Gates appear to have nothing to do with Trump, nor have they any facial relationship to the Russians. So why were these two indicted by a grand jury hearing evidence about alleged American assistance to Russian interference with the 2016 presidential campaign?

When prosecutors confront a complex series of potentially criminal events, they often do not know at the outset of their investigation where the evidence will lead them. Sometimes they come upon a person who they believe has knowledge of facts they seek and that person declines to speak with them. Such a refusal to speak to the government is perfectly lawful in America, yet it often triggers a prosecution of the potential witness so that prosecutors may squeeze him — not literally, of course — for evidence to which they believe he can lead them.

The ultimate target of Mueller’s investigation is President Trump. It is standard operating procedure when prosecutors have a high-level target to charge those below the target with something just to get them to cooperate. Though the charges against Manafort and Gates need not be related to the Russians or to Trump, they must be real. It’s clear they are, as each is facing more than 20 years in prison. Mueller believes that that prospect is enough to dispatch their lawyers to make deals with him.

The danger of such a deal is that Manafort and Gates may offer to tell Mueller what they think he wants to hear — even if it is not truthful — so that they can have their prison exposure lessened.

There is more danger in the seemingly smallest of this week’s Mueller-generated events. Papadopoulos was interviewed voluntarily by the FBI on Jan. 27. He was arrested on July 27 for lying to FBI agents during that interview. In a secret federal court proceeding on Oct. 5, he pleaded guilty.

In a profound miscarriage of justice, federal law permits FBI agents to lie to us but makes it a crime for us to lie to them. Nevertheless, why was the Papadopoulos guilty plea kept secret? What was he doing between his arrest and his plea and between his plea and its revelation?

Judges are very reluctant to close their courtroom doors in any criminal proceeding, even if both the prosecutors and the defense counsel request it. The public has a right to know whom the government is prosecuting and what deals or punishments it may be obtaining. Yet if prosecutors can convince a judge that public knowledge of the existence of a guilty plea might harm an ongoing criminal investigation, the judge can keep the plea secret.

That is apparently what happened here. It appears that Papadopoulos was gathering evidence for Mueller, probably by talking to his former Trump campaign colleagues while wired — a process that would have been fruitless if his guilty plea had become public.

Because Papadopoulos admitted under oath that he lied to FBI agents, the courts will treat his guilt as certain. That gives Mueller great leverage with him. It also gives Papadopoulos great incentive to help Mueller — truthfully or not — because he knows he is going to federal prison. He also knows that if Mueller likes what he hears, a five-year prison term could be reduced to six months.

Hence, Papadopoulos could be a treasure-trove for Mueller on the production of any evidence linking the Trump campaign and the Russians and any evidence of Trump’s personal knowledge or acquiescence. Papadopoulos has already produced a wild tale about meetings with a Russian professor and a female Russian government agent in London that the FBI apparently believes.

Is this any way to conduct a prosecution?

I have argued for years that squeezing defendants and witnesses by threats and promises to get them to spill the beans is a form of extortion or bribery — not much different from the extortion and bribery that the government regularly prosecutes. “You tell us what we want to hear and we will ask a judge to go easy on you. If not, you will suffer great losses.” It is bad enough that the feds can legally lie to us and get away with it, but can they also legally threaten and bribe witnesses to testify against us and get away with it? Can they do this to the president?

In a word, yes. My arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Squeezing witnesses and defendants is a way of life for federal prosecutors. For the president, it is the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

Courtesy: Fox News

Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New Campaign Ties With Russia

Video

Paul Manafort’s Trail of Scandals

President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been charged with tax fraud and money laundering. But this isn’t Mr. Manafort’s first public scandal.

By YOUSUR AL-HLOU and SARAH KERR on Publish DateOctober 30, 2017. Photo by Sam Hodgson for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, announced charges on Monday against three advisers to President Trump’s campaign and laid out the most explicit evidence to date that his campaign was eager to coordinate with the Russian government to damage his rival, Hillary Clinton.

The former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, surrendered to the F.B.I. and pleaded not guilty to charges that he laundered millions of dollars through overseas shell companies — using the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antique rugs and expensive clothes. Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s longtime associate as well as a campaign adviser, was also charged and turned himself in.

But information that could prove most politically damaging to Mr. Trump came an hour later, when Mr. Mueller announced that George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and was cooperating with investigators. In court documents released on Monday, federal investigators said they suspected that Russian intelligence services had used intermediaries to contact Mr. Papadopoulos to gain influence with the campaign, offering “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in April 2016 in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Mr. Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty weeks ago to lying to the F.B.I. about those contacts and has been cooperating with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors for months.

DOCUMENT

Read the Charges Against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and other charges. Mr. Manafort’s business associate, Rick Gates, was also charged.

 OPEN DOCUMENT

Monday’s dramatic announcements capped months of speculation about which of Mr. Trump’s campaign advisers might be first to be charged by Mr. Mueller, and they seemed to be a sign that the special counsel’s investigation is nowhere close to complete.

“There’s a large-scale, ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, a prosecutor on Mr. Mueller’s team, said at Mr. Papadopoulos’s plea hearing this month. The transcript of the hearing was released on Monday.

It is now clear, from Mr. Papadopoulos’s admission and emails related to a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, that the Russian government offered help to Mr. Trump’s candidacy and campaign officials were willing to take it.

The United States has concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried to tip the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Mr. Trump. As part of that effort, Russian operatives hacked Democratic accounts and released a trove of embarrassing emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Mueller and his team are investigating whether anyone close to Mr. Trump participated in that effort.

The announcements rippled across Washington, affecting both political parties. The powerful Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta quit his lobbying firm Monday. The firm, the Podesta Group, was hired to do lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine, work that is at the heart of Mr. Manafort’s indictment.

GRAPHIC

How a Trump Adviser Repeatedly Sought a Meeting With Russia

George Papadopoulos, an adviser to the Trump campaign, contacted campaign officials at least 11 times from March to June 2016 about a potential meeting.

 OPEN GRAPHIC

The tax and money laundering case against Mr. Manafort describes a complicated scheme in which he lobbied for a pro-Russia party in Ukraineand its leader, Viktor F. Yanukovych, and hid proceeds in bank accounts in Cyprus, the Grenadines and elsewhere. Prosecutors say he laundered more than $18 million, and spent the money extravagantly. A home improvement company in the Hamptons was paid nearly $5.5 million, according to the indictment. More than $1.3 million more went to clothing stores in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif.

Mr. Manafort bought a $3 million brownstone in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn and a $2.8 million condominium in SoHo, prosecutors said. “Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads. He was also charged with failing to register as a foreign lobbyist.

The charges carry the potential for roughly 20 years in prison, putting pressure on Mr. Manafort to provide information on others in exchange for leniency. Among other things, Mr. Manafort could shed light on how widely in the campaign it was known that Russia had damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. A senior White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said last week that the president was confident that Mr. Manafort had no damaging information about him.

In a court appearance on Monday, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates pleaded not guilty and were placed under house arrest on multimillion-dollar bonds. Mr. Papadopoulos is awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, called the money laundering charges “ridiculous” and noted that in the past half-century, prosecutors have charged only a handful of people with flouting foreign lobbying rules. Such violations are normally handled as an administrative matter. Mr. Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying “ended in 2014, two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign,” Mr. Downing said.

Photo

George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about a contact with a Russian professor with ties to Kremlin officials.

Lawyers for Mr. Papadopoulos declined to comment.

While the indictment paints an unflattering picture of the man Mr. Trump tapped to run his campaign, the allegations long predate his involvement in the presidential race. Mr. Trump seized on that fact, declaring on Twitterthat “there is NO COLLUSION!”

But as Mr. Trump typed out that message, Mr. Mueller’s team was unsealing documents related to Mr. Papadopoulos that directly undermined the president’s claim

Mr. Trump called Mr. Papadopoulos an “excellent guy” when he announced his foreign policy team in March 2016.

On Monday, however, White House officials described him as someone who played an insignificant role in the campaign.

“Look, this individual was a member of a volunteer advisory council that met one time over the course of a year,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “I’m not here to speak on behalf of the thousands of people that may have volunteered on the campaign.”

In March 2016, while traveling in Italy, Mr. Papadopoulos met a London-based professor of diplomacy who has deep ties to the Russian government. The professor took interest in Mr. Papadopoulos “because of his status with the campaign,” court documents said. The professor is Joseph Mifsud, according to a Senate aide familiar with emails in which Mr. Mifsud is mentioned. Two Senate committees are conducting Russia inquiries of their own, and investigators have been poring over thousands of emails produced by the Trump campaign.

Mr. Mifsud introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to others, including someone with ties to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a woman who he believed was a relative of Mr. Putin. Mr. Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, court records show.

“We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” the woman, who was not identified, told Mr. Papadopoulos in an email. She was not actually a relative of Mr. Putin, according to court documents.

Campaign officials knew that Mr. Papadopoulos was developing contacts in Russia, court documents show.

He repeatedly tried to arrange a formal meeting for Mr. Trump in Russia. Among those in the campaign who knew about the contacts was Sam Clovis, who helped supervise the foreign-policy team, according to a former campaign aide. Mr. Clovis could not be reached for comment.

GRAPHIC

How Key Trump Associates Have Been Linked to Russia

Several are under scrutiny by the F.B.I. and Congress.

 OPEN GRAPHIC

Ultimately, senior campaign officials said that Mr. Trump should not make the trip and leave it to “someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal,” according to an email cited in court papers. No campaign official made a formal trip to Russia.

When F.B.I. agents approached Mr. Papadopoulos on Jan. 27, he lied about his Russian contacts, according to court documents. That day, Mr. Trump invited the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to dinner at the White House and asked him to pledge loyalty, according to notes Mr. Comey took at the time.

As the F.B.I. scrutiny continued, Mr. Papadopoulos changed his phone number and deleted his Facebook account, which he had used to communicate with the Russians. The F.B.I. has obtained emails, text messages, and the transcript of chats on Facebook and Skype records as part of its investigation.

F.B.I. agents quietly arrested Mr. Papadopoulos at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on July 27, a day after agents raided Mr. Manafort’s Virginia home. The Justice Department disclosed on Monday that Mr. Manafort had withheld evidence from Mr. Mueller that was discovered during that raid.

With the charges against Mr. Manafort, Mr. Mueller has taken a broad view of his mandate. He was tapped to investigate Russian election meddling, whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved and other crimes that followed from that investigation. The charges against Mr. Manafort do not directly relate to Mr. Trump or the campaign. Mr. Manafort had been under investigation in New York and Virginia until Mr. Mueller was appointed and assumed control.

The special counsel has struck an aggressive posture in the case, and Monday’s charges were no exception. The Justice Department often invites lawyers to meet and discuss potential indictments. It is both an opportunity for lawyers to argue for leniency, and for prosecutors to spot potential weaknesses in their case.

But on Friday night, people close to Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates and lawyers involved in the investigation said they had received no indication that an indictment against them was imminent.

George Papadopoulos, ex-Trump aide, pleads guilty in connection to Russia probe: Who is he?

George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to the FBI.

Papadopoulos, 30, was charged with willfully and knowingly making false statements to FBI agents regarding “the timing, extent and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials,” according to court documents.

Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27 and pleaded guilty on Oct. 5.

How is Papadopoulos connected to Trump?

Papadopoulos was an early foreign policy adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Papadopoulos emailed seven other campaign officials in March 2016 to offer to set up a meeting with Russian officials to discuss “US-Russia ties under President Trump,” the Washington Post reported in August 2017. He would reportedly continue to make such offers as he worked with the campaign. 

During the campaign, Papadopoulos reportedly traveled to Israelwhere he took part in an energy conference.

How is Papadopoulos tied to the Russia investigation?

After becoming an adviser to the Trump campaign, Papadopoulos interacted with a professor “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials” who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s campaign rival, according to court documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

George Papadopolous_inline

George Papadopolous, a former adviser to President Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russian officials.  (Fox News)

Papadopoulos had told investigators that the professor divulged the information prior to his joining the Trump campaign. However, “the professor only took interest in [Papadopolous] because of his status with” the campaign, according to court documents.

MUELLER’S RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: WHAT TO KNOW

Papadopoulos also “repeatedly” attempted to use the professors’ Russian connections as well as that of a “female Russian national” to arrange meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, according to the Special Counsel’s Office.

He is cooperating with the FBI’s investigation, according to court documents.

Additionally, Paul Manafort, 68, the former campaign chairman for President Trump, and his associate, Rick Gates, 45, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Monday on 12 charges stemming from conspiracy against the U.S., to conspiracy to launder money.

What else should you know about him?

Prior to joining Trump’s campaign, Papadopoulos was an adviser for Dr. Ben Carson’s own 2016 presidential campaign.

Aside from campaign work, Papadopoulos has worked as an oil and gas consultant, his LinkedIn page said. Much of his work has revolved around natural gas and Greece, Cyprus and Israel, according to the Washington Post.

He was also the director of the Center for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security at the London Center of International Law Practice.

From Chicago, Ill., Papadopoulos graduated from DePaul University in 2009. He also received a Master of Science from the University of London, according to his LinkedIn page.

Courtesy: Fox News

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