Former Trump campaign vice chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty to criminal charges today in the Trump-Russia scandal, including the ominous “Conspiracy against the United States” charge. As it turns out, the guilty plea gives a strong (and seemingly intentional) hint that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is targeting a Republican Congressman as part of his investigation, which means things are heading in a much broader and more comprehensive direction than previously known.
Gates has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about a meeting between Paul Manafort, Russia, and GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, according to the Huffington Post (link). The paperwork doesn’t appear to specifically accuse Rohrabacher of criminal wrongdoing, but it doesn’t have to. Mueller could have chosen to have Gates plead guilty to any lie told, but he chose this one for a reason. He’s either sending a signal to Rohrabacher that he’s going to be indicted next if he doesn’t come in and cooperate, or he’s sending a signal to Rohrabacher that he’s simply screwed.
In fact, considering that Mueller isn’t known to have even so much as sought an interview with Rohrabacher, there’s good reason to suspect that Mueller has no plans to offer him a plea deal. In such case, today’s shot across the bow at Rohrabacher could be a signal to other Trump-Russia connected Congressmen like Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy that they need to come in and cut a deal.
In any case, Robert Mueller keeps finding ways to surprise us, and that’s a good thing because it means he’s retaining the element of surprise against Donald Trump and his people. But his pattern thus far has been to have people plead guilty to specific lies that send a signal to others that they’re going to be targeted next. It’s time for every Trump-Russia connected Republican in Congress to panic.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report