Trump aide Gates to plead guilty and testify against Manafort, sources sayBy DAVID WILLMAN
Tribune Washington Bureau
February 18. 2018 10:29PM
WASHINGTON — A former top aide to Donald Trump's presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days and has made it clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.
The change of heart by Trump's former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to those against Manafort, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.
"Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty," said a person with direct knowledge of the development, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington "within the next few days."
That individual and others who discussed the matter spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a judge's gag order restricting comments about the case to the news media or public.
Gates' defense lawyer, Thomas C. Green, did not respond to messages left by phone and email. Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller, declined to comment.
Mueller is heading the prosecutions of Gates and Manafort as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump or his aides committed crimes before, during or since the campaign.
The imminent change of Gates' plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller's prosecutors, senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.
According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect "a substantial reduction in his sentence" if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said Gates is likely to serve about 18 months in prison.
The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates "understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates but it won't be spelled out."
One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables derived from Gates' allegedly illegal activity that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.
Gates, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense.
"He can't afford to pay it," said a lawyer who is involved with the investigation. "If you go to trial on this, that's $1 million to $1.5 million. Maybe more, if you need experts" to appear as witnesses.
The Oct. 27 indictment showed that prosecutors had amassed substantial documentation to support their charges that Manafort and Gates, who were colleagues in political consulting for about a decade, had engaged in a complex series of allegedly illegal transactions rooted in Ukraine. The indictment alleged that both men, who for years were unregistered agents of the Ukraine government, hid millions of dollars of Ukraine-based payments from U.S. authorities.
According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort "laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts" and evaded related U.S. taxes.