This is major news breaking on Sunday, February 18, 2018. The republican President Donald Trump’ former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s former business long term associate and presidential campaign aid, Rick Gates has agreed to a plea agreement with the FBI’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, who is leading the Trump-Russia saga probe. The former campaign staffer will plead guilty to lesser charges in return for his testimony against Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort worked on the president’s campaign from about March – August 2016 but his aide Rick Gates remained a part of the president’s staff until after the November 2016 elections.
This development along with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI’s announced indictments on February 16, 2018 against 13 Russian Nationals and Russian entities for their interference in the 2016 presidential election season with the intent to sow chaos and division among the American public and to influence the outcome, has to be worrisome for the White House.
This possibility had been percolating in the Washington DC grape vine for awhile. It seems that not too long ago. Mr. Gates hired an attorney who is well known for negotiating plea agreements between prosecutors and defendants.
Here is the rest of the story…
On February 18, 2018, David Willman of the LA Times penned the following report, “Former Trump aide Rick Gates to plead guilty; agrees to testify against Manafort, sources say”
“A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.”
“The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.”
“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”
“That individual and others who discussed the matter spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a judge’s gag order restricting comments about the case to the news media or public.”
“The imminent change of Gates’ plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller’s prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.”
“According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said that Gates is apt to serve about 18 months in prison.”
“The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.”
“One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables – derived from Gates’ allegedly illegal activity – that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.
Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense.”
“He can’t afford to pay it,” said one lawyer who is involved with the investigation. “If you go to trial on this, that’s $1 million to $1.5 million. Maybe more, if you need experts” to appear as witnesses.”
“The Oct. 27 indictment showed that prosecutors had amassed substantial documentation to buttress their charges that both Manafort and Gates – who were colleagues in political consulting for about a decade – had engaged in a complex series of allegedly illegal transactions rooted in Ukraine. The indictment alleged that both men, who for years were unregistered agents of the Ukraine government, hid millions of dollars of Ukraine-based payments from U.S. authorities.”
“According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts” and took steps to evade related U.S. taxes.”
“If Manafort maintains his not-guilty plea and fights the charges at a trial, the testimony from Gates could provide Mueller’s team with first-person descriptions of much of the allegedly illegal conduct. Gates’ testimony, said a person familiar with the pending guilty plea, would place a “cherry on top” of the government’s already-formidable case against Manafort.”
“Gates joined Trump’s presidential campaign in June 2016, when the candidate hired Manafort as its chairman. At the Republican National Convention the next month, Gates directly handled the campaign’s operations as Manafort’s top aide.”
“Perhaps the most controversial step taken by Trump’s campaign at the convention concerned how the U.S. should deal with the tense relations between Russia and Ukraine, which repudiated Moscow in a 2014 revolt.”
“When a delegate proposed that the Republican platform call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine’s military in its struggle against Russian-backed armed forces, the Trump campaign defeated the effort. Instead of U.S. weaponry, the convention platform committee accepted the campaign’s substitute language, which offered Ukraine “appropriate assistance.”
“In mid-August 2016, Trump fired Manafort following reports of possibly improper payments he had received from a pro-Russia political party aligned with his longtime client, Viktor Yanukovych, who was Ukraine’s prime minister from 2010 to 2014.”
“Gates, however, remained with the Trump campaign through the election, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee. He also assisted Trump’s inaugural committee.”