Rick Gates pleads guilty: Mueller pressurizes Manafort
Sheetal Sukhija - Sunday 25th February, 2018
Trump aide flipped on Friday and pleaded guilty to conspiracy
He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and is cooperating in Mueller’s probe
Gates is a deputy campaign manager for Trump and is being investigated by Mueller in the Russia probe
WASHINGTON, U.S. - Special Counsel Robert Mueller managed to crack a former top adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign - Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to investigators.
Gates, who is a longtime political consultant and once served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman is now cooperating with a federal probe into Russia’s role in the election being led by the office of Mueller.
Gates was indicted by the special counsel earlier and his plea agreement, in exchange for a lighter punishment as opposed to decades in prison that he had been facing on much more serious charges, came as a significant development in the investigation.
Gates was faced with bank fraud and conspiracy to launder money, but under the charges, he pleaded guilty to, he faces a maximum sentence of only six years.
According to prosecutors, Gates could win a reduction in his sentence based on the extent of his cooperation with Mueller’s probe.
It is believed that Gates would offer incriminating information against his longtime associate and the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, or other members of the Trump campaign.
Gates was on Trump’s campaign team when Manafort, his then-boss, attended a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York between senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer.
According to sources familiar with the investigation, Mueller has taken a keen interest in whether Democrats’ emails allegedly hacked by Russian intelligence and made public six days after that meeting were discussed during that meeting.
Further, sources quoted in reports also revealed that Mueller is also interested in differing accounts of the Trump Tower meeting.
One such account reported in the media included a statement allegedly written aboard Trump’s plane with the president’s assistance.
Nevertheless, the plea agreement made by Gates would increase pressure on Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for five months in 2016, to also seek a plea deal.
However, after Gates’ plea deal, Manafort said in a statement that he maintained his innocence.
He said in a written statement, “Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled 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.”
Sources noted that Gates’ plea deal appeared to be motivated by his concern over legal costs and the strain on his family and the sentencing guidelines for the charges he pleaded guilty to call for a prison term of between 57 and 71 months.
What, however, could complicate the situation is that none of the charges made against Gates or Manafort so far, have made reference to any connection with Russian meddling in the 2016 election or possible collusion.
While Russia has denied the accusations of interference in the U.S. Presidential election, Trump too has said there was no collusion.
He has also denied any attempt to obstruct Mueller’s probe.
Gates became the fifth known person to plead guilty in the special counsel’s probe into alleged possible collusion.
New court documents filed in the case revealed that Gates has pleaded guilty to two charges.
The first is the conspiracy against the United States for “impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely” the Justice Department and the Treasury Department.
The second is making false statements.
Court documents also showed that Gates lied to the special counsel and the FBI on February 1 about a meeting that took place in March 2013 and was attended by Manafort, a “senior lobbyist” and a member of Congress, both remaining unnamed.
Gates also acknowledged lying about there being no discussions about Ukraine at the meeting.
On Thursday, in a new indictment, prosecutors led by Mueller levelled even more charges against Manafort and Gates than they had been facing before.
Both the men were accused of laundering millions of dollars from overseas, hiding money from the IRS and other crimes.
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