Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy and lying

Gates has become the third member of Trump’s campaign to plead guilty in the Mueller probe.

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Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and making false statements to federal investigators. With new criminal charges filed against Paul Manafort and with Gates agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, Manafort could agree to a plea bargain or possibly hold out for a presidential pardon from Trump.

In October 2017, Gates and Manafort were indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government, and tax fraud. Earlier that month, George Papadopoulos, a former member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI during their investigation into Russian interference.

On December 1, 2017, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn also pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents and began coopering with federal investigators. On February 16, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies while charging Alex Van Der Zwaan, an attorney who had previously been hired by Manafort, with lying to federal investigators.

Four days later, Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty and began cooperating.

On Thursday, Manafort and Gates were charged with 32 additional counts, including bank fraud conspiracy and preparing false income tax returns. According to the 32-count indictment, the defendants “generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.”

Between 2006 and 2016, Manafort laundered more than $18 million with Gates’ help and moved over $75 million through offshore accounts, according to the court document submitted with Gates’ agreement. Gates also admitted that he lied to the FBI earlier this month about a 2013 meeting between Manafort, a lobbyist, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

“I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort said in a recent statement issued by his attorney. “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.”

A few hours before Gates pleaded guilty on Friday, Rep. Ted Lieu of California tweeted, “Rick Gates risks dying in prison, or he can plead guilty and cooperate with the government. For most people, this would not be a difficult choice.

“If #RickGates flips, the pressure on Manafort to cooperate becomes immense. Manafort would know he won’t win at trial.”

Gates has become the third member of Trump’s campaign to plead guilty in the Mueller probe.

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