(National Sentinel) Russia Probe: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has become the first member of the president’s former team to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort and his former associate Rick Gates were told to surrender to federal authorities Monday morning, The New York Times reported.

The charges against Manafort and Gates were not immediately clear, however. Still, the arrests are significant because they represent a major escalation in the special counsel investigation as efforts to cast a pall over Donald J. Trump’s presidency continue.

“Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show,” the paper reported.

Manafort had been under investigation for alleged violations of federal tax law, money laundering and for failure to properly disclose foreign lobbying.

Critics of the probe including the president himself have labeled it a “witch hunt,” and said that it was politically motivated from the outset by Democrats unwilling to accept his November victory.

Trump himself has repeatedly denied any effort to ‘collude’ with Russia to ‘steal the election’ from his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. In fact, Trump tweeted over the weekend and recently that Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have more ties to Russia than anyone in Trump’s former inner circle.

Should Manafort and Gates actually go to trial and be convicted, there has already been some speculation they could be pardoned eventually by the president.

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