CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of Illinois’ congressional delegation expressed concerns Monday in the wake of the indictments of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates.
Manafort and Gates have been indicted on 12 counts, conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the U.S., unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading statements surrounding the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), false statements and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Both pleaded not guilty Monday.
A third former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russian nationals.
Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley said the charges are substantial.
“From a campaign point of view, there was none higher, at least the point he was there, than Paul Manafort. There’s a strange mixture of Trump associates, his campaign, financing, Russia, and laundering money,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said given the president’s repeated criticism of a special prosecutor’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, there is legitimate concern Trump might try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, or pardon those charged.
“If I would have said a year ago what you just said about the possibility of a special prosecutor being fired, and that a presidential pardon would be issued following it, you’d have said that movie will never sell, it’s too outlandish, it’s just not even possible,” he said. “But it sadly is within the realm of possibility.”
The senator said the first indictments in the Russia probe are troubling for the nation.
“It is a matter of extreme gravity when a foreign country, not a friend of the United States, ends up infiltrating our national election, and tries to change the outcome, then continues their trolls working out of Moscow in hundreds of websites,” he said.
Durbin wasn’t surprised by Monday’s indictments, noting the FBI executed a search warrant at Manafort’s home earlier this year.
“When they raid your home in the early morning hours, it’s a pretty good indication you’re in trouble, and I think this indictment today is the first. I don’t know how many will follow or when,” he said.
Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren, on Twitter, said allowing the special prosecutor to finish the investigation “is the right thing to do.”
“He, along with several congressional committees, will bring forth the truth,” he wrote. “Anyone breaking the law and undermining our national security must face consequences.”
However, Democratic Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Brad Schneider said Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have seemed unwilling to look deeper into whether there was collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.
“Congressman Schneider and I have tried on numerous occasions to get the Judiciary Committee to do its work by inviting [former FBI Director James] Comey, by inviting the attorney general, by inviting other people. You know what they do with our motions? They table them,” he said.
Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he’s worried Trump might pardon Manafort, and called for change to the pardon process.
“We have to bring transparency to the pardon process, and make sure that no president, Republican or Democrat, has the ability through secret preemptive pardons to impede an investigation,” he said.
Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, alluded to Watergate in predicting the investigation is just getting started.
“This is a complex investigation. If Watergate was algebra, this is calculus, because it involves international aspects, and Russia. It’s going to take a long time,” he said.
In a tweet, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger said “the American people deserve answers, transparency & the truth.”