Plea deal between Robert Mueller and Rick Gates takes bizarre turn

Over the weekend the Los Angeles Times reported that Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates had agreed to plead guilty in the Trump-Russia scandal, and that he had already conducted his pivotal proffer interview, giving up crucial evidence against Paul Manafort. Today, however, Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought new criminal charges against Gates and Manafort. This means that the Gates deal isn’t yet official, and it raises questions about what’s going on, though it’s largely too late to matter. Let’s parse what’s really going on here.

There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the earlier LA Times report, so it sounds like Gates either got cold feet at the last minute, or decided to try to hold out for a slightly better deal. Mueller doesn’t appear to be impressed with that move, so he’s hitting Gates with new criminal charges to try to force him to go ahead and formalize the plea deal. Here’s the thing, though: Gates already gave up everything – including himself – during his proffer interview.

I’ve spoken with various legal experts who have been a part of processes like this, and they’ve all told me the same thing: once a suspect goes through with the proffer interview, there’s basically no going back. Not only did Gates give up what he has on Manafort, he also gave up what he has on himself. Mueller cannot directly use Gates’ testimony as evidence against him. However, Mueller can take whatever Gates confessed to, and use it to dig up evidence against Gates, and use that against him. Gates knows this, and he knows there’s no way possible that he can go to trial.

So whatever is going on here, Rick Gates is still going to plead guilty. He committed himself to that path when he did the proffer sessions. Why is he suddenly trying to delay the inevitable by a bit? We have no way of knowing. But the real upshot here is that Gates has already given up Manafort, and today’s serious new criminal charges against Manafort spell that out pretty clearly. What matters here is that Mueller now has Manafort pinned to the wall, as he continues to try to force Manafort to cut a deal against Donald Trump. Help support Palmer Report

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report