In October, longtime Manafort aide and Trump campaign advisor Rick Gates was indicted, along with Paul Manafort himself, on a variety of charges, including money laundering and conspiracy.
More recently, reports surfaced that Gates is close to reaching a plea deal with Mueller.
Not only that, but according to the LA Times, he’ll be fully cooperative and plans to testify against Manafort. That would make him the third Trump campaign official to be flipped as a witness. Here’s more:
A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.
According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said that Gates is apt to serve about 18 months in prison.
When it comes down to it, he might not be able to afford a protracted legal battle:
Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense.
“He can’t afford to pay it,” said one lawyer who is involved with the investigation. “If you go to trial on this, that’s $1 million to $1.5 million. Maybe more, if you need experts” to appear as witnesses.
According to CBS, his attorneys requested to be removed from the case, seemingly confirming the likelihood he’s been flipped:
The revelations of Gates’ plea. Reid reports that all of Gates’ attorneys-of-record were seeking to withdraw from the case.
Gates had reached the point in his case at which he must decide whether or not to pursue a plea deal. The fact that three experienced trial attorneys wanted off the case suggested at the time that Gates may be pursuing a plea deal. The attorneys remain under a gag order by the court.
If true, this means former Trump Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates is going to flip. Special Counsel Mueller will now have at least three cooperating witnesses. Bannon may have cooperated as well.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 18, 2018
It’s pretty clear what Mueller’s strategy is—once he saw the easy-to-prove money laundering charges, he used criminal charges (and the threat of prison time that goes along with them) to turn aides into cooperative witnesses. Now that Flynn, Gates and Papadopoulos have all flipped, things are looking worse and worse for higher ups on the Trump campaign.
More than likely, Gates will be used as a witness against more than Manafort (although that could be interesting enough—remember that time Manafort’s own daughter said he’s had people killed?). He stayed with the Trump team as a senior advisor up to the inauguration. Given his and Manafort’s extensive work laundering money for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, it seems probable that one or both were points of contact for the Russian team we now know is responsible for attempting to sabotage the election.
Here’s how Trump’s perspective on Manafort shifted as investigators got closer (he’ll probably pretend he’s never met him once he flips, too):
Featured image via Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images