Two days into the trial of Paul Manafort, before his former sidekick Rick Gates even took the stand, it was clear that Manafort was going to be convicted. The bookkeeper and accountant testimony alone made it clear that Manafort was guilty of what he’d been charged with. It raised the question of why Robert Mueller even bothered to give Gates a plea deal. Now a court filing has revealed that the Gates deal was never about Manafort – it was about Donald Trump.
We first saw some hint of this when there was a question earlier this week of whether prosecutors were even going to call Rick Gates to testify against Paul Manafort, though the judge quickly made clear that he wanted Gates to testify after all. It suggested that there was a good reason why Mueller’s team wouldn’t want to put him up there. The cross examination of Gates revealed that he wasn’t a liability as a witness, so there was nothing for Mueller to have been concerned about on that front. Now we have our answer.
Mueller’s team has made a court filing asking that a side conversation about Rick Gates with the judge be kept under seal because it related to an “ongoing investigation” according to a CNN on-air report. So now we know that Mueller is building a criminal case against someone else based on the Rick Gates plea deal. So who else could Gates have incriminating information about?
After Paul Manafort’s Russia ties started coming to the surface during the general election, Donald Trump forced him out of his role as campaign chairman and manager. However, his sidekick Rick Gates remained on board for the duration of the campaign, and was around during the transition period as well. At this relatively late date, the only person who fits the bill is Trump himself. So we now know that the Gates plea deal is all about taking Trump down. No wonder Trump has been afraid to publicly attack Gates.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report