Rick Gates, a senior adviser to President Trump with close ties to Russia’s war against Ukraine, on Friday, accepted a plea deal with the special counsel Robert Muller. The deal could be a significant break in this meticulous investigation and a signal that Gates may offer incriminating information against his longtime associate and the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and possibly other members of the Trump family and staff in exchange for a reduced sentence. He admitted that he lied to investigators this month — while under indictment and negotiating with prosecutors — about the details of a 2013 meeting about Ukraine that Mr. Manafort had with a pro-Russian member of Congress.
Gates changed his plea on Friday from previously Not Guilty to Guilty on multiple counts of felony charges of conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with
investigators in their prosecution of Paul Manafort. Gates admitted to taking part in efforts to hide tens of millions of dollars that he and Paul Manafort, Trump campaign chairman, received for their lobbying and “consulting” work related to Ukraine. He looked down as the charges were read as if he had finally accepted his fate of a possible 6-10 years prison sentence.
The rest of the charges Gates faces in Washington and Virginia would be dismissed at or after sentencing if he abides by the deal. This brings us to what he might have revealed about the details of his association not only with Manafort but Trump and his family members and staff. It’s worthy to note that he continued his role in the campaign after Manafort’s departure.
Gates was described by prosecutors in court filings as Manafort’s “right-hand man,” directly involved in helping Manafort avoid taxes on the tens of millions of dollars he made for his work related to Ukraine. This alone will put tremendous pressure on Manafort who is now alone in his defense and may be, in time, more inclined to also cooperate with the investigators by sharing his knowledge of Trump’s involvement with Russia. When one speaks of Russia one really means Putin, because nothing happens without his directions.
Gates and Manafort lobbied U.S. policymakers, and thus should have registered as foreign agents for the work. However, their firm didn’t register until last June, after coming under investigation.
Gates will have information of how Russia allegedly sought to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump campaign officials or American backers of Trump conspired with such efforts, perhaps even the NRA, which is reported to have received millions of $ of Russian money. As a cooperating witness, he is required to be truthful about Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and his ascendancy to the role of deputy campaign chairman.
Both men’s tenures on the campaign happened during the time when the hacked Democratic emails that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign, were released, as well as the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr.; the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; Manafort; and a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Clinton.
This is where the danger for the President gets real and many legal voices now agree that Gates may bring down his presidency. After his plea, new charges were filed against Manafort, including an allegation he secretly recruited and funded a group of former European politicians to lobby in the United States on behalf of Ukraine. Flood Gates are now opened.
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