Manafort Associate To Plead Guilty In Mueller Probe

Gates appeared in federal court Friday afternoon to plead guilty as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election.

Gates, who was a deputy campaign manager for Trump, is being investigated by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is probing alleged Russian meddling in the USA election. Gates also acknowledged that, during a debriefing with the special counsel's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this month, he lied about the pair's Ukraine-related work. Gates, a 45-year-old father of four young children and resident of Richmond, Virginia, would be a reluctant witness against those Mueller is investigating.

The new allegation against Manafort comes in a newly unsealed indictment made public Friday.

No sentencing hearing was set.

Gates was the number two to former campaign chair Paul Manafort, and the second most senior person in the Trump campaign to plead guilty, following former national security advisor Mike Flynn.

While it was not clear what Gates might be able to reveal to investigators, he was on Trump's campaign team when his then-boss Manafort attended a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower in NY between senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer.

It would mark the fifth publicly known guilty plea in the special counsel probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign.

Gates and Manafort were previously indicted in the probe in October.

"This indictment has nothing to do with the White House or the president", White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp said in a Fox News appearance Friday.

Green did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Manafort and Gates, who also worked on Trump's campaign, both pleaded not guilty after that indictment. Manafort says he had "hoped and expected" that Gates would have "the strength" to continue to trial.

The guilty plea would indicate Gates' cooperation the investigation, which is probing the extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

The conspiracy count largely tracks with the indictment Mueller's team filed against Manafort and Gates last October, but consolidating the charges into one count reduced Gates' potential prison time.

However, Manafort said in a statement issued after Gates' plea deal that he maintained his innocence. That meeting was detailed in a June 2017 filing by Manafort's firm retroactively disclosing foreign lobbying.

Gates is charged in a criminal information with two counts.

The plea also comes quickly on the heels of a stunning indictment last week that laid out a broad operation of election meddling by Russian Federation, which began in 2014, and employed fake social media accounts and on-the-ground politicking to promote Trump's campaign, disparage Hillary Clinton and sow division and discord widely among the US electorate.

In March 2016, the same month he joined the campaign, Manafort fraudulently obtained a loan for over $3 million on a Manhattan condominium, prosecutors say. "And after the dinner I think he gave me a very modest campaign contribution". He is reportedly expecting to go to trial over financial crimes allegedly committed while working in the Ukraine, before the Trump campaign started.

"In retrospect, I don't remember him talking about specifically who it was who had given him a contract", Rohrabacher said. According to the document, Gates lied when he said Ukraine was not discussed at the meeting. After some legal wrangling, Jackson released the three lawyers Thursday. His new lawyer, veteran Washington white-collar attorney Thomas Green, formally took over Thursday.

  • Joey Payne