Ex-Trump Staffer Rick Gates to Plead Guilty in Russia Probe
Manafort’s long-time deputy reportedly plans to cooperate with Mueller.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that Rick Gates would not cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and would drop his lawyer, Tom Green. Both of those turned out to be incorrect. The Daily Beast sincerely apologizes to Green and Gates for the mistakes, and to our readers for publishing the original, erroneous report.
Rick Gates, formerly a senior Trump campaign official, is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy against the United States and lying to the FBI.
That will make Gates the third former Trump campaign official to plead guilty as part of Mueller’s probe. Last year, campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also pleaded guilty to charges related to the probe.
According to CNN, “Even as of yesterday, Gates' friends had tried to convince him not to plead guilty and sought for him a lawyer who would discount his cost, but Gates changed his mind.”
ABC News reported that lawyers for Trump and Manafort “appeared to be unaware as late as Thursday about Gates’ intentions.”
Over the years, Gates has operated closely with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. (In his October indictment for money laundering, Mueller described Gates as Manafort’s “right-hand man.”) Together, they worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-friendly former president of Ukraine. That work—for which the duo allegedly received millions in secret payments—generated controversy during President Donald Trump’s campaign, and ultimately contributed to Manafort’s firing from Team Trump. It also drew the special counsel’s attention.
“In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts,” according to court filings released on Friday.
Those filings alleged that Gates lied to the FBI, and “intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, imparing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury.”
A grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted both men on a number of charges last October, including “conspiracy against the United States.” The charges were related to their work in Ukraine, and included allegations of sophisticated financial crimes.
On Thursday, the special counsel’s team filed a new indictment against Gates and Manafort in federal court in Virginia. It alleges that Gates and Manafort lied to lenders about their finances and concocted a real estate scheme so they would have more liquidity. By deceiving lenders, they received millions of dollars in loans, according to the indictment.
Significantly, this new indictment documents allegedly illicit financial activity from the time Gates and Manafort both worked on the Trump campaign.
Mueller’s new indictment also charges that Manafort and Gates failed to tell the IRS that they had money in foreign bank accounts. Under federal tax law, people filing their tax returns must check a box if they have assets in bank accounts located overseas. Neither Manafort nor Gates did this, according to the indictment.
Over the course of decades, Manafort and Gates established over 30 domestic and foreign entities with which to receive and move more than $75 million worth of cash outside the watchful eye of the IRS, according to Mueller’s new indictment. Gates alone obtained more than $3 million from these accounts, per the indictment.
Manafort's lawyer, Jason Maloni, released a statement on Thursday saying his client had not committed the offenses listed.
“Paul Manafort is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges. The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied,” Maloni said.
Gates was deeply involved in eye-opening deals involving powerful Kremlin-connected figures. In 2008, Manafort and Gates attempted to purchase New York’s Drake Hotel with assistance from Vladimir Putin ally and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska—who directed scads of money Gates and Manafort’s way—and a Kremlin-tied Ukrainian gangster, Dmitry Firtash. Gates wrote memos to Deripaska aides urging them to “lock in the deal” for the hotel, even volunteering to travel to Moscow if necessary.
The deal never came through. Within a couple of years, Gates and Manafort stiffed Deripaska for what the oligarch claims is $19 million. Deripaska wrote in a 2015 court filing: “It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.”
By then, however, Manafort and Gates were rich men off work they had done for Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions. Among their assignments was to commission a report from a Democratic-connected law firm, Skadden Arps, whitewashing the party-controlled government’s decision to jail a political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. Skadden lawyers formally received the conspicuously small fee of $13,000 for transcontinental work. Mueller’s October indictment of Manafort and Gates alleged that the two men “used one of their offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay secretly for the report.”
Just days before Mueller’s new indictments, Mueller secured a different plea from a Skadden attorney named Alex van der Zwaan. He worked on Skadden’s Manafort-funded Tymoshenko report. And one thing van der Zwaan lied about to the Bureau: communications he had with Rick Gates.
—with additional reporting by Spencer Ackerman