BY: TANNER KENNEY
On Monday, August 6th, 2018, former Trump Campaign and Inaugural Committee member Rick Gates took the stand in federal court to testify against his former boss and mentor, Paul Manafort. The testimony was part of a plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and his team as part of its wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In doing so, Gates has also become the first witness to testify in the case without immunity.
Gates, careful to avoid eye-contact with Manafort throughout his time on the stand, testified to the nature of the crimes he committed, the reasoning behind them, as well as the fact that he did so strictly at Manafort’s direction. This includes the fact that Gates initially lied to FBI investigators in order to protect himself and Manafort from the Mueller Investigation.
On the stand, Gates enumerated the various ways in which Manafort’s firm would skirt financial regulations in falsifying documents and income reports for loan applications, evading taxes, among various other activities. This is to say nothing of the criminal charges related to their international lobbying operations, highlighted by a failure to report as a Foreign Agent to the Department of Justice.
In his defense, Manafort argues that Gates is testifying solely to reduce his own sentence as Gates was also forced to admit to stealing vast sums of money from the firm through fake expense reports. The factual revelations made by Gates are somewhat unsurprising at this juncture, given that many of the alleged crimes carried-out by Manafort and his firm have already been detailed in the complaint filed against them.
The Special Counsel’s investigation has accelerated greatly, in recent weeks, and Gates’ appearance in the proceedings has only brought with it a heightened sense of tension and drama, evidenced by the increasingly erratic Tweets by President Donald Trump regarding the probe. And, when coupled with the mounting pressure from the Special Counsel on those involved with Russian meddling in the 2016 elections – including a second and equally serious case against Paul Manafort in Maryland – it is evident that additional indictments may be imminent, including that of former Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone.
As the Special Counsel’s investigation continues to name and indict individuals and entities, both foreign and domestic, it has become clear that Mueller intends to pursue an avenue of prosecution similar to that of organized crime syndicates (e.g. the Mafia and RICO statutes), targeting mid-level employees and associates in the hopes of getting them to flip in the same way that Gates and former attorney Alex van der Zwaan did with Paul Manafort, irrespective of any and all political drama.
Manafort’s trial in Virginia is considered a ‘paper case’ as it is almost entirely document-based, meaning that neither circumstance nor intent will play a major role in the proceedings, but may very well serve as the basis for demonstrating intention throughout the case against Manafort in Maryland where he is accused covering-up his malfeasance, along with numerous other crimes.
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.
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