The impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, the third impeachment trial ever of a U.S. president, officially began when the impeachment articles were read in the Senate and Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 16.
An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has produced its first charges against several individuals connected with the Trump campaign on Monday, October 30. This is the first official confirmation that someone involved with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign turned to Russia to obtain damaging information on his opponent Hillary Clinton.
George Papadopoulos, foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his meetings with an individual believed to have “had substantial connections to Russian government officials.” The investigation unearthed that this individual, a professor, offered him thousands of emails by and about Clinton.
Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, and his associate Rick Gates were also indicted on charges of money laundering and illegally working with pro-Russian factions in the Ukraine. Both supplied a not guilty plea and were placed under house arrest. The bond for Manafort was set at $10 million and $5 million for Gates.
Manafort has been charged with 9 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements and failing to disclose foreign banking activity. Gates received 8 counts on the same charges. They could spend up to 40 years in prison and face millions of dollars in fines.
Both individuals were revealed to have used their illegally earned income to live lavishly, without paying taxes. One report from the New York Times estimates that Manafort spent over $800,000 on luxury clothing over a 6-year period, while Gates is alleged to have spent a good portion of his money on redecorating his home and paying for his children’s tuition.
Mueller has notified the White House that six more aides close to the president will be sought for questioning including former press secretary Sean Spicer and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
President Trump tweeted about the indictments, in an apparent attempt to shift focus to his former opponent: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t crooked Hillary and the Dems the focus?????”
In another tweet, Trump reiterated his denial of any connections between him and Moscow: “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
The U.S. has ordered the closure of three Russian diplomatic facilities in retaliation for being forced to downsize its own diplomatic presence in Russia by 60%.
The American order, issued on Thursday, August 31, 2017, called for the closure of Russia’s oldest consulate general in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington D.C. and a consular annex in New York City by the following Saturday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry that he “expressed regrets over the escalation of tensions in bilateral relations, which were not initiated by us.”
Russia ordered the decrease in U.S. diplomats on Sunday, July 30, days after Congress approved sanctions to punish the Kremlin for election tampering, the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s continued military presence in the Ukraine.
“We waited for quite a long time, that perhaps something will change for the better. We held out hope that the situation would somehow change. But, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Rossiya 1 Television, a state-run television channel. The Kremlin claims its expulsion of U.S. diplomats was to seek “parity” in the number of diplomats working in either country.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that the White House wishes to “halt the downward spiral” of relations between the countries.
“We’re going to look for opportunities to do that, but we’re also going to make sure that we make decisions that are best for our country,” Sanders said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that relations between the two countries could be at their worst since the Cold War.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, suggested on Sunday that President Donald J. Trump may not serve a full four-year term.
“Not all American presidents have reached the end of their term. It could be worth remembering, considering the government we are dealing with in today’s historical times,” Zakharova said on Rossiya 1 in an interview which aired 2 days after the closure of the diplomatic centers in the U.S.