WASHINGTON – Rick Gates, a former top official in President Donald Trump’s campaign, plans to plead guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, according to court papers filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The guilty plea, which is scheduled for Friday afternoon, caps a busy week for Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and related issues. It also ends a tumultuous period for Gates, who found himself re-indicted, changing lawyers and agreeing to plead guilty all within 24 hours.
According to a criminal information – a document filed with the permission of the defendant which traditionally signals that person plans to plead guilty – Gates conspired to defraud the United States regarding the money he and his business partner Paul Manafort earned and lied to the FBI in a Feb. 1, 2018, interview about a 2013 meeting he’d had with Manafort and an unidentified lobbyist.
Gates’s plea raises the pressure on Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. Both men were hit with a 32-count indictment on Thursday, following an earlier 12-count indictment of the pair back in October.
Gates could provide the special counsel with valuable information about the inner workings of Trump’s operation: He served as a senior figure in the campaign and had access to the White House as an outside adviser in the early months of the administration.
The latest indictment does not involve conduct at the Trump campaign. Instead, the special counsel accused the men of lying on their income-tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans as part an elaborate scheme to use their income from the Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle.
Gates would be the third former Trump aide to admit guilt in Mueller’s probe. It was not immediately clear what impact his plea would have on his co-defendant, Manafort.
Unlike Manafort, who resigned from his position as Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016, Gates remained with the campaign until Election Day, working at one point for the Republican National Committee. He then joined the inaugural committee as deputy chairman. Once Trump took office, Gates helped launch an allied group to support the president’s agenda and was a regular visitor at the White House.
Gates spent much of his career at Manafort’s side. After earning degrees in government from the College of William & Mary in 1994 and a master’s in public policy from George Washington University, he became a research intern at the political consulting firm co-founded by Manafort.
Manafort introduced him to the highflying and controversial world of international political consulting. Among Manafort’s clients have been foreign leaders such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Congo) and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
Gates left the firm to work for companies in the lottery and gaming business, but he eventually reunited in 2006 with Manafort, who had begun doing political consulting work for Viktor Yanukovych, then a politician with ambitions to become president of Ukraine.
According to court documents, Manafort and Gates failed to register as foreign agents while they were working for Yanukovych, as required. When they belatedly reported the work in June, they said their company had been paid $17 million between 2012 and 2014.
In the October indictment, the special counsel alleged that Manafort and Gates laundered money for nearly a decade through scores of U.S. and foreign corporations and accounts and gave false statements to the Justice Department and others when asked about their work on behalf of a foreign entity.
Prosecutors allege that when the Justice Department approached Manafort and Gates in 2016 and 2017 about whether they should have registered as foreign agents for the work, they responded with false and misleading letters.
Manafort and Gates also were accused of trying to hide money kept in foreign bank accounts. Gates controlled as many as 30 bank accounts last year, including several in Cyprus in which he held more than $10 million, according to court documents.
All told, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts, the special counsel alleged.
The prosecution and its financial pressures have taken a toll on Gates, according to people familiar with his situation.
He lives in Richmond with his wife and their four young children, for whom he often asked the court for permission to coach soccer. Court filings show he has scrambled to post assets totaling less than $5 million to secure his bail.
Gates was held under house arrest until January, when he was released under travel restrictions on his nearly secured bond.
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