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Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:55 AM
Former Trump Campaign aide Rick Gates pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C. federal court on Friday to a pair of charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, becoming the third person from the President's 2016 campaign to accept a plea bargain with investigators, who are probing Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
For weeks, news reports had said that Gates was under pressure to agree to cooperate with prosecutors, as he was the one-time right hand man to former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort. The feds say both men engaged in extensive efforts to avoid reporting millions of dollars in income from political work done for a pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine.
In new documents filed earlier in the day, the feds again set out a highly detailed and extensive series of financial transactions by Manafort, Gates - and several unnamed conspirators - to funnel "millions of dollars in payments" into foreign companies and bank accounts around the world.
Along with pleading guilty to charges of defrauding the United States by conspiring to avoid taxes on millions of dollars in payments, Gates acknowledged in this plea bargain to lying to investigators - just three weeks ago.
One additional note - on that day that Gates lied to investigators, February 1, his original attorney filed a motion with a federal judge to immediately withdraw as Gates' lawyer.
The reason wasn't known - as the details were filed under seal, and kept secret.
Gates is the fifth person to publicly plead guilty to a charge in the Mueller investigation; none of the allegations leveled by the feds against either Manafort or Gates have centered on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Gates also becomes the third member of the Trump Campaign to plead guilty in this probe, joining foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Gates, Flynn and Papadopoulos are all cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
The plea bargain would seem to ratchet up the pressure on Manafort, as the two men have worked together for many years in the private sector as political consultants and lobbyists, and then for Mr. Trump in 2016.
Gates was originally indicted along with Manafort in late October 2017 on a 12-count indictment covering money laundering, false statements, and not registering as a foreign agent.
A superseding indictment was filed Thursday afternoon against Manafort and Gates, 32 criminal counts which featured charges of income tax evasion, bank fraud, and conspiracy.
In the latest indictment, the feds charge that Manafort and Gates made "tens of millions" of dollars from their work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, and then "engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities."
The plea bargain by Gates comes a week after a federal grand jury indicted a group of Russians, as the feds set out the details of a well-financed operation that used social media to mainly support the candidacy of President Trump, and raise questions about the bid of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton.
This was the reaction from Manafort to the Gates plea.
It was a double whammy type of day for Manafort - not only did his former top lieutenant agree to a plea bargain, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller then unveiled updated charges against Manafort.