Trump aide pleads not guilty on fraud and conspiracy charges

Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.
Donald Trump and Paul Manafort. Photo credit: Getty

US President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to a new indictment brought against him in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and will face trial in September.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is running the Russia probe, is dialling up the legal pressure on Manafort, who has opted not to co-operate with investigators.

Manafort's former business partner Rick Gates, another Mr Trump ex-campaign official, decided last week to co-operate with the investigation.

Manafort is facing two separate indictments on an array of charges, including conspiracy to launder money, filing false tax returns, bank fraud, and failing to register as a foreign agent despite lobbying in the United States for the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian government of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort's trial is expected to last for several weeks, and could stretch on through November's midterm elections, making headlines at a time when Republicans are fighting to maintain their majority in the US House of Representatives and Senate.

US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson set the trial to start September 17 in Washington DC.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort, with Gates' assistance, laundered more than US$30 million and duped banks into lending money. They say the pair used funds from secret offshore accounts to enjoy a life of luxury.

None of the charges against the pair make reference to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election nor accusations of collusion between Moscow and Mr Trump's campaign.

Manafort is facing two separate indictments - one filed in the federal court in Washington DC and a second in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Washington one charges him with conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the US, making false statements, and charges in connection with failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine.

The Virginia indictment charges him with bank fraud, filing false tax returns and failing to report foreign bank accounts to the US government.

Manafort is expected to appear for a second hearing in the Alexandria court on Friday, where he will also plead not guilty to the charges.

Gates made a plea deal last week to charges that he lied to investigators and conspired against the US. The move added to pressure on Manafort to cut a deal himself but he has maintained his innocence.

Reuters