U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed conspiracy and false-statement counts against former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates as a person familiar with the matter said he is poised to plead guilty.
Gates is scheduled to appear in court on Friday afternoon in Washington, where he was first indicted Oct. 27 with Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on charges of money laundering and hiding offshore bank accounts. A guilty plea would come a day after Mueller ratcheted up pressure on Gates and Manafort, his longtime business associate, by unsealing a new indictment charging both men with bank and tax fraud.
Should he cooperate, Gates could help Mueller build a stronger case against Manafort, who employed him as a political consultant in Ukraine for a decade. Gates remained on the Trump campaign after Manafort resigned in August 2016 and helped plan Trump’s inauguration.
Speculation has swirled for weeks that Gates was preparing to cooperate with Mueller, who has charged 19 people in his investigation, securing four guilty pleas. Gates, a 45-year-old father of four young children and resident of Richmond, Virginia, would be a reluctant witness against those Mueller is investigating.
“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates said in a letter to his family, according to ABC News. “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.”
While there’s no public filing yet indicating that Gates is working with prosecutors, it’s typical for cooperators to plead guilty to a broad conspiracy charge and then testify about the facts at a later criminal trial. It’s also routine for cooperators to admit to a second, substantive criminal count, which in Gates’s case would be the false statement charge.
Gates is charged in a criminal information with two counts. He is accused of conspiring between 2006 and 2017 to hide offshore bank accounts and conceal his work as an unregistered foreign agent. The false statement charge relates to Gates’s statements to authorities about a 2013 meeting regarding his Ukraine work that was attended by a member of Congress, a lobbyist and Manafort.
The government accused Gates of lying to Mueller’s office and FBI agents on Feb. 1, the day before the criminal information was filed under seal.
Gates and his legal team have been in active negotiations with Mueller’s team after he was indicted on charges including money laundering, bank fraud and tax evasion, according to the person who said Gates was close to entering a guilty plea.
The conduct in the conspiracy charge was outlined in the Oct. 27 indictment of Manafort and Gates. On Thursday, Mueller unsealed a new indictment charging Manafort and Gates with bank and tax fraud.
The case is U.S. v. Gates, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).