Rick Gates Swings Back and Forth
In a surprising move in the Robert Mueller federal investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, former Donald Trump top election aide Rick Gates has changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” in response to federal charges of conspiracy against the the United States and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Gates recanted his previous FBI statement regarding the details of a March 2013 Washington, DC meeting with a US jurist where Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was also present. During that meeting, Gates previously told the FBI that the subject of Ukraine had not been discussed. Now Gates says the topic did come up.
The Daily Beast notes that Gates and Manafort “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 goes on to quote the new federal court allegations:
“In order to hide Ukraine payments from authorities of the United States, Manafort and GATES laundered the money through scores of the domestic and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.”
Based on information collected by the Mueller team, both Gates, 45, and Manafort, 68, received U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indictments last October 2017 with charges of conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the US. The pair were charged with using a $75 million offshore account to funnel funds they controlled and concealed more than $30 million from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Paul Manafort (left) and Rick Gates (right)
The two former Trump aides were also charged with lobbying illegally for a foreign government (Ukraine) without having registered as US foreign agents.
Both Gates and Manafort pleaded not guilty to the October 2017 indictments.
Now, on February 22, 2018, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia has returned a new superseding indictment against the two business associates, which changes the legal venue and specifies multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. Notably, Gates allegedly failed to report more than $3 million of his personal income – and we know how the IRS feels about that.
Adding insult to injury, Gates and Manafort are also charged with knowingly filing false tax returns between 2010 and 2014 – and we know how the IRS feels about that, too.
The recent court filings contend that Gates “intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury.”
Gates and his legal defense lawyers must prove that he didn’t use his tax-free revenue for personal expenses like his mortgage, children’s tuition and a make-over for his house in Virginia.
Both defendants are also accused of hatching “a scheme to defraud the US by making false representations to banks and other financial institutions between 2008-17,” according to the BBC.
An extremely succinct comparison between the original Washington DC indictment and the new superseding Virginia indictment can be found at Lawfare.
Significant in the Virginia court filings is the fact that there are no criminal allegations of collusion or conspiracy between these two colleagues and any Russians, the principal objective of Mueller’s probe.
Even so, the standing charges against Gates and Manafort are very serious. Gates is facing between 57 and 71 months in prison.
Manafort continues to maintain his innocence and plea of not guilty. He, like many of us, are wondering why Rick Gates changed his story – and his plea? Is he being honest and truthful – or did someone pressure him (or convince or bribe him) to change his tune? Is he protecting his family and/or reputation?
We may never know the answers to these questions. But it is safe to say that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but inexorably, onward.