Gates to plead guilty

ABC News: Former Trump aide tells loved ones of plans to plead guilty, cooperate with special counsel

President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign aide Richard Gates has told family and close friends in a letter sent this morning he plans to plead guilty Friday in the special counsel’s criminal case against him, setting up the potential for Gates to become the latest well-informed Trump insider to assist in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, according to sources close to the matter.

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.”

Gates is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Friday to face reduced charges of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal agents, according to a new court filing.

One could assume that the strength of the case against him had a part to play in his decision. It seems unlikely Gates would plead guilty if he was not guilty.

The potential for a guilty plea could dramatically change the dynamics in the investigation, just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller added a raft of new financial and tax charges to the criminal case against Gates and his longtime colleague, Paul Manafort.

It depends on what Gates tells the investigators beyond the charges he faces, in  particular if he provides information about contacts between the trump campaign and Russians intent in interfering in US elections.

Pressure mounts in US Russian investigation

Last week’s indictment of Russian nationals was just one step in the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the US elections in 2016. Another move is forecast to unfold shortly:

LA Times: Former Trump aide Richard Gates to plead guilty; agrees to testify against Manafort, sources say

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 Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager Richard Gates, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

Mueller is heading the prosecutions of Gates and Manafort as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump or his aides committed crimes before, during or since the campaign.

The imminent change of Gates’ plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller’s prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.

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 Gates is likely to serve about 18 months in prison.

If Gates has negotiated down to 18 months prison he must have faced serious charges with strong evidence against him.

The Oct. 27 indictment showed that prosecutors had amassed substantial documentation to buttress their charges that Manafort and Gates — who were colleagues in political consulting for about a decade — had engaged in a complex series of allegedly illegal transactions rooted in Ukraine. The indictment alleged that both men, who for years were unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government, hid millions of dollars of Ukraine-based payments from U.S. authorities.

According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts” and took steps to evade related U.S. taxes.

If Manafort maintains his not-guilty plea and fights the charges at a trial, the testimony from Gates could provide Mueller’s team with first-person descriptions of much of the allegedly illegal conduct. Gates’ testimony, said a person familiar with the pending guilty plea, would place a “cherry on top” of the government’s already formidable case against Manafort.

And this will place more pressure on Manafort.

Again this says nothing about possible Trump knowledge or involvement. One possibility is that members of his campaign team colluded with Russians without Trump’s knowledge. There were always going to be risks rapidly assembling a campaign team when many experienced Republican campaigners didn’t want to be involved.