Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Gates, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s Russia investigation to federal conspiracy and false statements charges. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Today, as anticipated, Paul Manafort business associate Rick Gates entered a guilty plea to some of the charges brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller. Gates is a long time business partner of Manafort and, in addition, was Manafort’s deputy when he was Trump’s campaign manager and later had a position on the transition team.
Back in October, Gates was hit with a twelve-count indictment for conspiracy against the United States (this does not mean what never Trumpers think it means), making false statements, money laundering, and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Gates was featured again in a 32-count superseding indictment released yesterday. Via The Hill:
Gates pleaded guilty to two charges brought against him by Mueller’s team in federal court in Washington, D.C: one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making a false a statement to the FBI agents investigating Russian interference. He has also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
According to the criminal information filed by Mueller on Friday shortly before Gates pleaded guilty, Gates lied to federal investigators about a March 2013 meeting during which former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort, an unnamed member of Congress reported by the Los Angeles Times to be Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and an unnamed lobbyist discussed Ukraine.
Except they are wrong. If the conversation Gates lied about took place in 2013, it obviously has noting to do with the 2016 campaign investigation which is what Mueller is supposed to be focusing on.
Speculation has mounted over the past week that Gates would plead guilty and cooperate in Mueller’s probe, making him into a key witness who could testify in the criminal case against Manafort. The development is expected to ratchet up pressure on Manafort himself to cooperate in Mueller’s probe.
Maybe. But the one unifying factor in all the indictments, other that the bullsh** ones Mueller made on Russians he’ll never, ever lay hands on, is that everyone of these people have been indicted for lying to investigators. That really isn’t the kind of witness that gets you a whole lot of traction if they ever have to testify. And if pleading guilty to two charges from a 32-count indictment clears the slate, it gives you an idea of how flimsy this all was.
I could be proven wrong on this, but this looks like another in the series of process crimes unrelated to the 2016 election that Mueller has chalked up. Unimpressive. But as this is a perpetual employment program for Mueller and his team, we should get used to it.