Rick Gates, a former top adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, has pled guilty to lying to investigators in the special counsel inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It has been announced that he will now cooperate with the investigation. There has been speculation that Gates intends to offer information about his longtime associate and the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has charged Gates and Manafort with dozens of new charges of money laundering and bank fraud. The new charges were unsealed last Thursday. Both men were first indicted in October. Both pleaded not guilty at the time.
The special counsel’s team has already secured guilty pleas from Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy aide during the campaign. They have also agreed to cooperate with the inquiry.
Gates also pled guilty to fraud charges. He acknowledged that he participated in a financial conspiracy with Manafort in a court session regarding his plea change. He also admitted that he lied to investigators while he was under indictment and negotiating with the prosecutors. The lies apparently were in relation to the details of a 2013 meeting in Washington that Manafort had with a member of Congress and a lobbyist.
Gates wrote in a letter to friends and family, “Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart. The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circuslike atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.” He now faces up to nearly six years in prison.
Gates once served as Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman. He was present for the most significant periods of activity of the campaign, including after Manafort was fired by then-candidate Trump in August 2016. Gates also acted as a liaison between the campaign and the Republican National Committee.
It is unclear what exactly Gates might have to offer the special counsel. His testimony could be a powerful blow to Manafort’s defense strategy. After the plea was announced, Manafort released a statement saying, “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”