Unless you were paying close attention to the inner workings of the Donald Trump campaign during the election, you may not have even heard of Rick Gates until the day he was arrested alongside Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But now Gates may be the guy who brings the entire criminal operation down. Yesterday we got even more confirmation that Gates is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller. So why is he doing this, and how much damage can he do to Manafort and to Trump?
As for his motivations, Rick Gates doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison. Manafort is wealthy and he’s hired high priced attorneys who plan to try to beat the charges on technicalities and other legal maneuvering. Gates doesn’t have that option. When Gates was first arrested, he had to ask for a public defender because he was broke. Defendants have to provide financial documentation in such cases, so he wasn’t faking it; he really is broke.
Someone (Manafort? Trump? Russia?) has since been providing Gates with high priced attorneys he can’t afford, in the hope of keeping him from flipping. But that wasn’t going to work forever. Gates couldn’t take the risk that such a tenuous situation would work out in his favor. So he brought in a new attorney who has been meeting with Mueller to work out a plea deal. This meant the departure of his outside attorneys, as there was no longer any hope of preventing him from flipping. CNN is reporting that those attorneys moved in court to get themselves removed from the case yesterday, citing details that had to be redacted.
In other words, this is about crucial evidence that Rick Gates is preparing to turn over to Robert Mueller, and it’s so sensitive that the attorneys can’t even talk about it out loud. Gates has a long and close professional and financial history with Paul Manafort, so this basically means Manafort is finished. He’ll have to a cut a deal of his own. Whether Gates has the goods on Trump is irrelevant, because Manafort does – and Manafort will have to give that up in order to get his deal. In short, this means Mueller can now take Trump down for crimes like money laundering, in addition to the existing obstruction of justice case.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report