Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Ex-Trump aide pleads guilty, will cooperate in Russian Federation probe

Paul Manafort.    
   Mark Wilson  Getty Paul Manafort. Mark Wilson Getty
Patty Aguilar | 24 February, 2018, 05:53

President Donald Trump's former campaign deputy Rick Gates pleaded guilty Friday to fraud and lying, pledging to assist special prosecutor Robert Mueller's probe into alleged campaign collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Gates pleaded guilty to two charges brought against him by Mueller's team in federal court in Washington, D.C.: one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making a false a statement to the FBI agents investigating Russian interference.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is maintaining his innocence after his longtime business associate pleaded guilty to federal charges. Under the terms of the plea, he is estimated to face between 57 and 71 months behind bars and a possible fine ranging from $20,000 to $200,000.

Manafort pleaded not guilty to Mueller's first round of charges, which were filed in Washington in October.

Paul Manafort says in a statement that the plea by Rick Gates on Friday does not change his commitment to defend himself against what he calls "untrue piled up charges".

Gates has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and they may ask the judge to reduce his sentence if they are satisfied.

Gates has flipped. That makes Manafort's situation even more perilous.

The 33-year-old attorney pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates.

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He frequently pleaded with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for leniency in his house arrest to let him attend sporting events with his four children. Manafort says he had "hoped and expected" that Gates would have "the strength" to continue to trial. They largely relate to a conspiracy of unregistered lobbying, money laundering and fraud laid out in his indictments. But his plea does newly reveal that Gates spoke with the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this month and lied during the interview.

Prosecutors also have secured guilty pleas from Trump's former national security adviser Mike Flynn and a campaign foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos, who acknowledged in court documents that he met with a person he thought was tied to the Russian government who was offering "dirt" on Clinton. He was also involved in the campaign when then-Sen.

But remember that Gates was in the senior management of the Trump campaign not only from the time Manafort was hired in May 2016 until he was sacked in the summer.

Gates survived his mentor's ouster, serving as the campaign's liaison to the Republican National Committee and later working on Trump's inaugural committee. And, as The New York Times noted, Gates was close enough to the Trump senior brass that he traveled with the candidate on Trump's plane all the way through November 8, 2016.

The charges don't name the lobbyist or the lawmaker but filings with the Justice Department show Manafort and Vin Weber of Mercury Public Affairs met with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., on that date as part of a lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

The indictments detailed a wide-ranging scheme by Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort to hide from American authorities millions of dollars they had earned as political consultants in Ukraine. Van der Zwaan admitted to lying to federal investigators while they questioned him about the production of a legal report that Paul Manafort and Gates are accused of secretly funding by funneling $4 million through an offshore account.

"The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russian Federation and 2016 election interference/collusion", said Manafort's spokesman on Thursday.

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