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Manafort influential in Rhode Island politics

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on federal conspiracy and money laundering charges Monday. He is one of three of Trump’s top aides who were charged by the FBI Special Council, in an announcement that offers the most damning evidence linking the Trump campaign with Russian intelligence services.

The case against Manafort involved a complicated scheme in which he was a lobbyist for a Ukranian pro-Russia party and hid proceeds in overseas bank accounts. Manafort pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges in Monday’s court appearance, and he was put on house arrest on multimillion-dollar bonds.

Before his foray into national politics, Manafort worked as a campaign strategist for former Rhode Island Governor Edward D. DiPrete. When interviewed last summer by the Providence Journal, Diprete, 83, was emphatic in his praises of Manafort.

He is very good,” said DiPrete. “He got me elected in a heavily Democratic state. I can’t say enough good about the guy.”

Diprete was the first governor to go to prison for crimes committed in office, having pled guilty in 1998 to charges of extortion, bribery and racketeering. Manafort came up with the governor’s slogan, “The Change We Need.”

When Diprete was asked about Manafort’s Ukrainian ties, he said, “Not too long ago he represented the Ukraine government, and from everything I picked up, his activities were top secret; he wouldn’t tell his closes friends his plans.” Diprete was unable to be reached for a comment regarding the new allegations.

Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin said in a press release yesterday that the charges against Trump’s campaign officials like Manafort “represent a chilling development in the investigation of foreign collusion and influence peddling tied to last year’s election.”

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed Langevin’s sentiments, saying that the new details regarding Manafort “illuminate a serious challenge for our democracy.” Senator Jack Reed said that the Special Counsel’s investigation must continue without interference.

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