US Politics

Gates Pleads Guilty in the Mueller Probe as New Accusations Surface Against Manafort

Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to the charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Shortly after his plea, reports indicated that Mueller has accused Manafort of paying European politicians to work on behalf of Ukraine. Gates' plea raises the question to what extent will he cooperate with Mueller's team.


What: Robert Gates pleads guilty in Mueller’s probe and Manafort allegedly paid former European politicians to work on behalf of Ukraine

When: February 23rd, 2018

On Thursday evening, a flurry of contradicting reports circulated regarding Rick Gates’ status in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. After much speculation regarding the announcement of a hearing scheduled for 2:00pm EST today, the Special Counsel’s office filed additional charges against Gates that allege – among other crimes – he played a role in massive, international financial crimes including bank fraud and tax evasion.

Perhaps most notable among those charges is that Gates conspired against the United States of America. This marks the first time an American has been indicted for conspiracy in Mueller’s probe.  Moreover, and when analyzed in concert, these erroneous reports show just how tight-lipped the investigation has been and, perhaps, just how quickly it is gaining momentum. Gates’ guilty plea also raises the very real possibility of him cooperating with Mueller’s team to provide incriminating information against Manafort and others within Trump’s circle.

Additionally, Gates’ haphazard moves paint a picture of desperation– first he allegedly fired his team of attorneys. But reports indicate that they filed a document to withdraw as his counsel, which begs the question did they actually quit. Then there was confusion regarding attorney Tom Green, a plea bargain-specialist – was he fired and then rehired? If neither, how long was he retained prior to today’s guilty pleas?

Shortly following the announcement of Gates’ plea, news broke that the Special Counsel has accused Paul Manafort of paying European politicians to work on behalf of Ukraine. The indictment reads that Manafort, “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.” It remains to be seen whether these accusations will be given newfound support with Gates’ cooperation. Manafort has already publicly decried his former colleague’s move to plead guilty.

As Gates prepares to join the ranks of former colleagues and current Russian-inquiry-cooperators, Michael Flynn and George Papadapoulos, his role in Trump’s ascendance to the presidency must not be downplayed as the administration has previously tried to do with defectors from its camp.

Unlike the Special Counsel’s office and the Justice Department, President Trump has been extremely vocal about the investigation throughout his time in office, spending considerable energy attacking the institutions charged with investigating and adjudicating the crimes uncovered in the probe, regardless of their status in the judicial process.

Last night’s devolution of clarity is just one aspect of one case involved in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in American democracy. It demonstrates the Special Counsel’s desire to keep things in-house and let the process play-out in courtrooms, not public squares.

Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy. 

Photo Credit: New York Times

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