Former Trump campaign aide pleads guilty in Russia probe

From Reuters - February 23, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former senior official in Donald Trumps 2016 presidential campaign, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators, and he is cooperating with a federal probe into Russias role in the 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 U.S. election.

Gates had been potentially facing decades in prison on much more serious charges, including bank fraud and conspiracy to launder money. Under the charges he pleaded guilty to, he faces a maximum sentence of nearly six years.

Prosecutors said they could ask the judge for a reduction in Gates sentence based on the extent of his cooperation with Muellers probe.

The plea increases pressure on Paul Manafort, who was Trumps campaign manager for five months in 2016, to also seek a plea deal. However, Manafort said in a statement issued after Gates plea deal that he maintained his innocence.

Cooperation by Gates, and potentially by Manafort at a later stage, could provide a rich vein of information for Mueller, whose Russia probe includes looking into whether Trumps campaign colluded with Moscow to interfere in the election.

Gates plea deal appeared to be partially motivated by his concern over legal costs and the strain on his family.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort, with Gates assistance, laundered more than $30 million and duped banks into lending money. It says the pair used funds from secret offshore accounts to enjoy a life of luxury.

None of the charges to date against Gates or Manafort have made reference to any connection with Russian meddling in the 2016 election or possible collusion. Russia has denied the accusations of interference. Trump has said there was no collusion, and has also denied any attempt to obstruct Muellers probe.

Mueller, appointed by the Department of Justice last year, has a broad brief that allows him to look into any wrongdoing uncovered in the course of his investigation.


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

Mueller, according to sources familiar with the investigation, has taken a keen interest in whether Democrats emails allegedly hacked by Russian intelligence and made public six days after that meeting were discussed then.

Gates helped run the campaigns day-to-day operations, played a key role at the Republican National Convention where Trump was chosen as the partys nominee and accompanied Trump on campaign flights.

He stayed on in the campaign even after Manafort resigned in August 2016 amid a controversy over cash payments from Ukraine. After Trumps election win, Gates was on Trumps presidential transition team and his inaugural committee.


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