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Gates Pleads Guilty As Mueller Investigation Intensifies
President Trump’s former campaign advisor, Rick Gates pleaded guilty Friday to federal conspiracy and providing false statements; swiveling from being a defendant to cooperating witness in Robert S. Mueller’s special investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia’s alleged election intrusion.
Gates divulged he will aid Mueller’s investigation in “any and all matters” as prosecutors continue to scrutinize the 2016 election campaign, Russia’s meddling as well as Gate’s longtime associate Paul Manafort, also a one-time campaign adviser to President Trump.
Gates, 45, of Richmond, VA will provide witness to information regarding Manafort’s finances and political consulting work in Ukraine. Gates will also provide intel as someone who had access to the top levels of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Appearing with his attorney in a Washington courtroom on Friday afternoon, Gates changed his plea, acknowledging that he participated in the financial conspiracy with Manafort. His plea came a day after a federal grand jury delivered a 32 count indictment against Gates and Manafort accusing them of tax evasion and bank fraud.
Gates — the 5th defendant to plead guilty in Muller’s investigation admitted to charges accusing him of conspiracy against the United States government related to fraud and unregistered foreign lobbying in conjunction with falsifying information to federal authorities in a recent interview.
Gates charges, which he is pleading guilty to –don’t involve any conduct tied to the Trump campaign, in large part, they are connected to a conspiracy of unregistered lobbying, money laundering, and fraud laid out in his indictments.
Manafort continues to maintain his innocence and in a statement on Friday said, “Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pleaded today, I continue to maintain my innocence. I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”
The Virginia indictment is the 2nd round of charges filed against Gates and Manafort, who were initially charged last October with unregistered lobbying and conspiracy to launder millions they earned while working on behalf of a Pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
Gate’s plea deal arrives after last weeks extraordinary indictment which laid forth a broad operation of election meddling by Russia, dating back to 2014. Election meddling is said to have employed fake social media accounts and on-the-ground politicking to promote Trump’s campaign, disparage Hillary Clinton and incite contention among the U.S. electorate.
His plea sheds light on the fact that he spoke with the FBI earlier this month and lied during the interview – the same day his attorneys withdrew their counsel based on “irreconcilable differences.
Gates served as an advisor during the same time frame during which Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met with a team of Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. He is also alleged to be involved in the campaign when then-Sen. Jeff Sessions held a pair of undisclosed meetings with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The men worked in various capacities with Viktor F. Yanukovych, the onetime Ukrainian president and a longtime ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Mr. Mueller’s team found that more than $75 million passed through offshore accounts and that Manafort laundered more than $18 million to furnish a lavish, mostly tax-free lifestyle. Gates is alleged to have transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts, court documents show.
As many one-time campaign advisors have, Gates served merely a few months in 2016, who was said to have been essential to Trump by way of herding the ground effort aiding his win for the Republican nomination. Gates is also said to have flown from state to state to acquire Republican delegates in a tussle lasting until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Gates power and influence is said to have wavered once Trump fired Manafort in August 2016 after The Associated Press disclosed how Gates and Manafort covertly directed a Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
Gates survived his mentor’s firing and served as the campaign’s liaison to the Republican National Committee. Later, he worked on Trump’s inaugural committee. Gates also worked briefly with the outside political groups supporting Trump’s agenda, America First Policies, and America First Action, but was thrust out of that job last year. When he was indicted last October, Gates was working for Tom Barrack, a close friend of Trump.
On Friday, court papers accused Gates of lying to federal agents about a March 19, 2013, meeting involving Manafort, a lobbyist and a member of Congress. Gates said the meeting did not include discussion of Ukraine. Prosecutors dispelled those statements.
The indictment charges do not list a lobbyist or the lawmaker. However, filings with the Justice Department show Manafort and Vin Weber of Mercury Public Affairs met with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., on that date as part of a lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
Mueller’s team unsealed a new indictment solely against Manafort on Friday including an allegation that he, with Gates’ assistance, secretly paid former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine.
Known as the “Hapsburg group,” Manafort is accused of paying the former politicians to appear to be “independent” analysts when in fact they were paid – some of which occurred in the U.S. According to the indictment, the group was managed by a former European chancellor. Manafort was also accused of using offshore accounts to pay the group more than 2 million euros.
In a letter to friends and family, obtained first by ABC News, Mr. Gates said there had been false news stories about an impending plea deal over the past two weeks.
Gates added, “Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart. The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circuslike atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”