Rick Gates, in pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges, admitted that he had lied to the Special Counsel about his and Paul Manafort’s (and others’) dealings with and about Ukraine. Gates was interviewed on February 1st by the Mueller team who asked questions about a 2013 meeting with Manafort, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (known as “Putin’s man in Congress”) and Vin Weber, a former Minnesota Congressman and powerful Republican lobbyist/deal-maker.
Gates said that Manafort had told him that Ukraine wasn’t discussed in the meeting. But Mueller’s investigators discovered that a long overdue 2017 Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filing disclosed in the very same meeting that they had, indeed, discussed Ukraine and that Gates had helped prepare a report about those Ukraine-related discussions. It’s been reported that Weber attended to help Manafort lobby Rohrabacher for favors.
Rohrabacher has said there was no meeting but merely a dinner between old friends at the Capitol Hill Club and that Manafort had given him a “small campaign contribution.” He told POLITICO that they had discussed what Manafort was doing in Ukraine. It isn’t known whether Manafort described the work of grabbing and holding power for Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian oligarch and Putin crony.
He claims not to even know if Manafort was employed by the Russians or the Ukrainians (at that time, a distinction without a difference.) He said, “He certainly wasn’t trying to twist my arm on any policy issue.” Really? This is the same Paul Manafort who, as Donald Trump’s campaign manager at the time, ordered the change in the 2016 Republican Platform to give serious advantages to Ukraine and then lied about it. Some media people say it’s impossible to see a link among all the Russia threads. But his could be the thread that binds it all together.
Richard Smith is an author and policy analyst in Northern Virginia