The Slatest

Rick Gates Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy, Lying to Investigators

Former Trump Aide Rick Gates attends a hearing on his fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on February 7, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Former Trump aide Rick Gates attends a hearing on his fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on Feb. 7 in Washington.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Update, 3:20 p.m.: The Washington Post reported that Rick Gates pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.

His former business partner Paul Manafort continued to maintain his innocence.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort said in a statement. “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.”

The Post reported that the government had agreed to dismiss all other charges against Gates in two previous indictments in exchange for the plea and, depending on his level of cooperation, would recommend a sentence of 57 to 71 months in prison and drop a forfeiture demand that might have made Gates liable for up to $18 million. The charges that Gates pleaded guilty to carried a maximum possible prison sentence of 10 years, the Post reported.

Update, 1:20 p.m.: The Washington Post is reporting that Rick Gates will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of making a false statement to investigators on Friday.

On Friday, Robert Mueller’s team released a new document of “Superseding Criminal Information” listing two superseding charges.

Count one indicates that Gates “together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States” in failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and foreign lobbying, combining charges that had already been included in an October indictment. Count two indicates that Gates lied to the special counsel’s office and the FBI on Feb. 1 about a 2013 meeting between Manafort, an unnamed lobbyist, and an unnamed member of Congress, saying Manafort told him at the time that Ukraine had not been discussed. This indicates that Gates had been speaking with investigators even after his October indictment—which would indicate a cooperation deal was being worked on—and indeed he has lied to them during those discussions.

The Post reported that the Criminal Information is “a document filed with the permission of the defendant which traditionally signals that person plans to plead guilty” and that the guilty plea was scheduled for 2 p.m.

An additional document released by the court on Friday indicates that Gates requested on Thursday that he be allowed to travel to Boston to take his children on spring break in the first week of March. The purpose of the trip, the document states, is for Gates to “show his children around the Boston area to learn about American history in general, and the Revolutionary War in particular.” The document indicated that the motion might be granted by Judge Amy Jackson, which would indicate that it was not opposed by Mueller or his team, which would indicate that a plea deal that involved permission to leave on the trip had been struck.

The court also added a 2 p.m. hearing for an arraignment and plea agreement with Gates to its docket.

Original post: Rick Gates wrote a letter to friends and family telling them that he would plead guilty on Friday in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, ABC News is reporting.

More from ABC News:

In the letter obtained by ABC News, Gates writes to family and friends “despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates explained. “The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.” …

“The consequence is the public humiliation, which at this moment seems like a small price to pay for what our children would have to endure otherwise,” Gates said in his letter.

It was unclear to which crimes Gates would be admitting, but the recently anticipated move to apparently cooperate would be a coup for Mueller. Gates is charged with a series of financial fraud and lobbying misreporting crimes related to work he allegedly did on behalf of the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine while working for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Manafort and Gates were each hit with a new 32-count indictment on Thursday, explicitly laying out charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts that had been previously detailed in an October indictment but never charged.

In a court document released on Thursday, the special counsel’s office reported that one defendant in the case had waived a venue move for the new list of charges while another would insist that the new charges be heard in the Eastern District of Virginia rather than the District of Columbia, which might have indicated a split in the legal strategies of the two defendants.

The New York Times also reported earlier on Friday that Gates was preparing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

The Times reported:

Mr. Gates’s primary concern has been protecting his family, both emotionally and financially, from the prospect of a drawn-out trial, according to a person familiar with his defense strategy who was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The move would come after a whiplash report from the Daily Beast on Thursday that Gates had fired a defense counsel known for securing cooperation deals with federal investigators and was moving toward a legal team with connections to Manafort’s own.

“Gates has for weeks been vacillating between fighting the charges and pleading guilty, and remained undecided through much of this week, according to [sources close to the matter],” ABC News further reported.

Gates’ deal would almost certainly include testimony against his former colleague, which might in turn put pressure on the former chairman of the Trump campaign to agree to some plea bargain of his own.

It’s unclear whether either man has information that would serve the primary purpose of Mueller’s probe, which has been to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any possible support it may have received from the Trump campaign.

As the Times noted, though, Gates remained part of the Trump campaign as a liaison between the campaign and the Republican National Committee even after Manafort left the campaign in August, 2016 following scrutiny of his foreign ties.

“Mr. Gates was present for the most significant periods of activity of the campaign, as Mr. Trump began developing policy positions and his digital operation engaged with millions of voters on platforms such as Facebook,” the Times noted.

Last week, Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with a conspiracy to defraud multiple agencies of the U.S. government by interfering in the 2016 election through an orchestrated social media trolling campaign.

It’s also unclear how a leak of a letter describing Gates’ desire to avoid a “circus-like atmosphere” as being his chief motivation to plead guilty will affect an apparent agreement to accept responsibility for specific crimes and to theoretically testify against his old partner. This does not seem likely to be how Mueller would have wanted the news to break, however.