What Is A FARA Statement? Paul Manafort Is Charged With Falsifying Them

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The FBI's investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia heated up on Monday as two Trump aides turned themselves into federal authorities and the Justice Department announced that another pleaded guilty to making false statements weeks ago. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, unregistered agent of a FARA principal, and false and misleading FARA statements. Here's what a FARA statement is and why Manafort needed to make one in the first place.

Let's start here: The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 requires anyone representing the interests of foreign nations in a political or quasi-political capacity to disclose their relationships with said foreign nations. Manafort and Gates' indictment alleged that they both failed to register as foreign lobbyists and made false and misleading statements about working as lobbyists for foreign nations. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Not everyone working in politics is required to make a FARA statement, but Manafort and Gates needed to because they worked as advisers to pro-Russian Ukrainian President President Viktor Yanukovych before joining the Trump campaign. The federal charges against them not only claim they failed to register, but also that they lied about “meeting or conducting outreach to U.S. government officials” and about the fact that their work in the Ukraine included “meeting or outreach in the U.S.”

Charges related to FARA only constitute two of the 12 counts lodged against Manafort and Gates. Gates was accused of transferring more than $3 million from offshore accounts, and Manafort allegedly laundered more than $18 million. The bulk of the charges hinge on the fact that they allegedly failed to report foreign bank accounts to the U.S. Treasury between 2011 and 2014.

However, many of these allegations are tied to the Ukraine and pro-Russian interests, which makes them indirectly tied to the FARA statements the government alleges Manafort and Gates failed to make — and then lied on.

The two men received payments from the Ukrainian president and a Russian billionaire through shell companies set up in Cyprus, a known tax haven. The allegations that they hid foreign bank accounts cite accounts in Cyprus, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and the Seychelles.

Yet another layer of the tangled web between Russia, Manafort, Gates, and the Cyprus accounts is that Manafort was reportedly millions of dollars in debt to a Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin who invested in a Ukrainian TV company and filed complaints claiming Manafort didn't repay him when the project collapsed. This was discovered through financial records filed in Cyprus.

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So, the FARA statements are only one piece of the puzzle. But had Manafort and Gates registered as lobbyists for a foreign power at the correct time, their connections to pro-Russian forces may have been called into question much sooner.

Intensifying the news surrounding Manafort's and Gates' indictment, the Justice Department unsealed records Monday that a former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents in relation to the special counsel's investigation into potential collusion with Russia. Papadopoulos was a foreign policy adviser during the 2016 campaign and pled guilty Oct. 5 after he was arrested July 27. The unsealed documents reveal that he lied to federal agents about a meeting he took with a Russian professor related to Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2016. The professor claimed to have "thousands of emails" that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.

"[Papadopoulos] sought to use her Russian connections over a period of months in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials," the documents read.

Papadopoulos' plea and the charges against Manafort and Gates heightened Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe to the next level. Although it's unclear what's to come next, the investigation has continuously felt unpredictable and chaotic to many. So buckle up, and prepare for more uncertainty.