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Trump's former campaign boss charged in Russia probe

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UPDATED | Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 US election have charged President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering.

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A third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI, it was announced on Monday.

It’s a sharp escalation of US Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s five-month-old investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt the election in Trump’s favour, and into potential collusion by Trump aides.

Manafort, 68, a longtime Republican operative, and Gates were arraigned at a federal courthouse in Washington.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in a 12-count indictment, ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

The judge ordered house arrest for both men and set a $US10 million ($A13 million) unsecured bond for Manafort and an unsecured bond for Gates at $US5 million. There will be another hearing on Thursday.

Neither Trump nor his campaign was mentioned in the indictment against the pair. The charges, some going back more than a decade, centre on Manafort’s work for Ukraine.

A White House spokeswoman said the indictment had nothing to do with Trump or his campaign and showed no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia.

“We’ve been saying from Day One there’s no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a news briefing.

In a development directly related to Trump’s 2016 election campaign, it emerged on Monday that Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to FBI agents.

Mueller’s office said Papadopoulos had lied to FBI agents about the timing of contact between him and a professor in London who claimed to have information that would hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Sanders also played down Papadopoulos’ campaign role, saying it was “extremely limited” and that he was a volunteer.

Trump on Monday reiterated his frustration with the Mueller probe, which he has called “a witch hunt.” Moscow also denies the allegations.

“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?????,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to Clinton.

– Reuters

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