The indictment leveled against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates is one of the most shocking revelations to surface in the Russian collusion probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
But Russian officials are casting doubt on the validity of the claims against the former Trump campaign head. According to NBC News, Russia’s Foreign Ministry cited a factual error in the Manafort indictment. The spokesperson for the ministry said the presence of such an error indicates the allegations are “cooked up” and not part of a “serious investigation.”
The ramifications of the indictment are not yet clear, as the charges against Manafort and Gates are unrelated to their role in the Trump campaign, and the alleged illegal activities took place years before Manafort worked for the President.
Maria Zakharova, who represents Russia’s Foreign Ministry, noted that the 31-page indictment document against Manafort incorrectly describes Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko as her country’s former president.
The reality is that Tymoshenko was never president, although she did twice serve as Ukraine’s Prime Minister, first in 2005 and again from 2007 to 2010. In 2011, she was jailed on embezzlement charges that the US and other countries claimed were politically motivated.
Tymoshenko was eventually released from prison and all charges were cleared. Zakharova brought the glaring mistake to the attention of the state-owned Russia 1 television station, mocking the alleged negligence of Special Counsel Mueller’s team.
“I liked a lot the bit that, it turns out, according to the recent findings of American enforcers, the Ukrainian president before [Viktor] Yanukovych was Yulia Tymoshenko,” Zakharova said. “We did not know that, but there you go.”
The actual Ukrainian president before Yanukovych was Viktor Yushchenko. For Zakharova, that error casts doubt on the validity of the entire indictment and makes it difficult to accept the Special Counsel’s probe as a “serious investigation.”
“This is a very important moment showing the way how, once again, this document had been made, cooked up,” Zkharova continued. “You understand when you talk about serious investigation one cannot allow things like that.”
According to the Manafort indictment, the former Trump campaign chairman and his associate, Richard Gates, “lobbied multiple members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko (who had served as Ukraine president prior to Yanukovych).”
The charges against Manafort and Gates include money laundering, conspiracy against the US, failing to register as foreign agents, and neglecting to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The two men have made tens of millions of dollars from their lobbying work in Ukraine. The revelation of their indictment coincided with the guilty plea of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos has pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the full extent of his contacts with Russian officials. As Breitbart notes, a Russian-connected professor told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “thousands of emails” from Hillary Clinton and “dirt” on the Democrats’ presidential nominee.
Papadopoulos admitted to deleting his Facebook account that had Russian contacts after he first spoke with the FBI. Papadopoulos has reportedly been cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller’s team since his arrest.