WASHINGTON — Rick Gates, former deputy manager of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to two charges and will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Gates appeared at U.S. District Court in Washington on Friday to make the plea, one day after Mueller added new charges against him and Paul Manafort, a business associate and Trump’s former campaign chairman. Their indictments are related to lobbying and political work they did before the 2016 campaign with Russian-backed interests in Ukraine.
Gates pleaded guilty to two additional charges, of conspiracy and lying to federal agents. Prosecutors claim that Gates and others tried to defraud the United States in 2006 and 2007 by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating” the functions of the Justice and Treasury departments. The false statement was made on Feb. 1, in how Gates described the nature of a 2013 meeting between Manafort, an unidentified lobbyist, and an unidentified member of Congress on whether the topic of Ukraine was discussed. There have been multiple reports that the member of Congress was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and the lobbyist was Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman from Minnesota.
As part of the plea deal, Gates will cooperate with Mueller in his protection of Manafort.
In a statement, Manafort said, “Notwithstanding that Rich Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence. 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.”
In the indictment on Thursday, prosecutors claim that, “Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.”
Manafort and Gates were working on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president who was removed from power in 2014.
Update: The court unsealed a “superseding indictment” against Manafort, with the new claim that he “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.”
“The plan was for the former politicians, informally called the ‘Hapsburg group,’ to appear to be providing their independent assessments of government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”
The indictment alleges that in 2012 and 2013, Manafort used at least four offshore accounts to wire more than 2 million euros to the group.