WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump’s former campaign deputy Rick Gates pleaded guilty on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to fraud and lying, pledging to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his vast probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Gates was the third former Trump aide to agree to cooperate in exchange for reduced charges by Mueller, who is also examining Moscow’s alleged collusion with the Trump campaign and whether the president illegally sought to obstruct his probe.
The plea deal in a Washington federal court, on charges much reduced from the original ones filed against Gates, immediately put him at odds with his former business partner and ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who refuses to bow to pressure from Mueller to strike a deal.
Manafort has counter sued Mueller, accusing the former FBI director of going far beyond his Justice Department mandate in the probe.
A new indictment against Manafort accuses him of having secretly paid a group of former senior European politicians more than two million euros ($2.5 million) to lobby for the government of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych.
Gates and Manafort were originally charged on October 30 with multiple counts of laundering $75 million and tax evasion related to their work from 2006 to 2014 for Yanukovych.
They were also accused of illegally representing a foreign government, Ukraine, as lobbyists without first registering with the US government as foreign agents.
But the charges Gates ultimately pleaded guilty to on Friday were one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in relation to not reporting offshore banking accounts, and one count of lying over his work as a foreign agent for Ukraine.
Each count could bring a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But sentencing depends on the extent of his cooperation with Mueller’s broader investigation, which has focused on a number of others in
Trump’s orbit, including current White House aides and members of Trump’s family.
That was similar to deals offered to two other ex-advisors to Trump, who have also pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos have each pleaded guilty to one count of lying.
Gates and Manafort still face a separate indictment filed on Thursday by Mueller in a Virginia court, on charges of bank and tax fraud in relation to how they deployed their Ukraine earnings back into the United States.