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White House worried as Mueller digs deep

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WASHINGTON/NEW YORK President Donald Trump brushed off the first indictments in the probe of his campaign's ties to Russian election meddling, but the charges sent a clear signal to the White House and other Trump associates: Mr Robert Mueller means business.

By going after Mr Trump's campaign manager and another aide on money-laundering charges and securing a guilty plea from a third campaign adviser, Mr Mueller showed he would dig deep into the past for criminal activity and use his broad powers aggressively.

That has left some Trump associates worried about what or whom Mr Mueller would target next, despite the White House's dismissal of the developments.

"They're flexing their muscles for anybody that they approach in this investigation and letting them know we really mean it," said a former federal prosecutor.

"So if we come to you, you should talk to us. Manafort didn't and look what happened to him."

Manafort and Rick Gates are charged with money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States (see report, above), and other counts.

They pleaded not guilty on Monday. The indictments, which closely detail the alleged crimes, appear to be a strong move from Mr Mueller, and Trump officials have noticed.

In a New York Times interview in July, Mr Trump had indicated that the special prosecutor would be crossing a red line if he investigated Mr Trump's family business but legal experts said Mr Mueller would not be swayed.

Lawyers said the guilty plea of former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, announced on Monday, could provide a closer link to the campaign and pressure others to talk.

Papadopoulos admitted he lied to the FBI about his Kremlin-related contacts while he was a campaign adviser .

Papadopoulos had been arrested in July and had been cooperating with the government.

"God knows what this guy's going to say now," said a former Trump campaign adviser.

"Since he's co-operating, he could set any perjury traps up for others." - REUTERS

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