After being illegitimately named the winner of the election, Donald Trump and his political team were so eager to begin grifting, they didn’t even wait until they were in office. The transition team famously raised millions of dollars for the inauguration, much of it from dubious sources, most of which was never spent, and the leftover money was never heard from again. But today’s testimony from Rick Gates directly changes all of that.
Rick Gates didn’t merely serve as deputy chairman of the Donald Trump campaign; he also held that same title for the Donald Trump inaugural committee. While he was testifying today at the Paul Manafort trial, Gates admitted to committing financial crimes left and right. In most instances he conspired with Manafort to commit fraud, while in another instance he admitted to stealing from Manafort to cover his own expenses. Then he was asked if he stole from the inauguration fund by falsely padding his expense reports. Gates’ surreal answer: he might have, but he couldn’t remember.
This is remarkable on its face, because it means that Rick Gates has made such a habit of stealing so much money from so many places, he can’t can’t even remember whether or not he stole from the inaugural committee. Based on the evidence, he wasn’t an outlier; this was the norm for the people whom Donald Trump put in charge of his political operation. Gates is simply the first one to openly come clean about his nonstop grifting. But there’s more to this. His answer kicks the door wide open when it comes to the inauguration fundraising scandal.
Keep in mind that Rick Gates has already cut a plea deal and confessed all of his crimes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. While he was on the witness stand, he confessed to them again. There would be no reason for him to lie about stealing from the inaugural committee. He’s got to be telling the truth here: it’s the kind of thing that a career grifter like him would have done, and he just can’t remember whether he actually did it. In other words, we now know where all that missing inaugural money went; it’s buried in padded expense reports. Who else on the Trump inaugural committee had their hand in the till? Mueller will find out, if he hasn’t already.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report