Politics

Former Trump Aide Pleads Guilty In Mueller Probe

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Rick Gates pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring against the U.S.
  • He is the fifth Trump associate to plead guilty in Robert Mueller’s investigation
  • Gates’ family and friends were reportedly urging him not to cooperate with Mueller

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates pleaded guilty on Friday in a case being prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gates pleaded guilty to conspiring against the United States and making false statements to the special counsel’s office and FBI.

He is the fifth associate of President Donald Trump to plead guilty in Mueller’s sprawling investigation, which began as an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Gates’ decision follows a day after Mueller indicted the political consultant and his former business partner Paul Manafort with 32 counts of bank fraud and money laundering related to their work for a former Ukrainian politician. (RELATED: Not A Single Mueller Prosecutor Is A Republican)

Mueller indicted the pair in October on charges related to money laundering, bank fraud, and making false statements regarding their Ukraine work.

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None of the charges appear to involve Manafort and Gates’ activities on the Trump campaign. Manafort served as the Trump campaign’s chairman, and Gates was his deputy.

According to the plea deal, Gates acknowledged that he lied to the special counsel’s office and the FBI during an interview earlier this month about a March 19, 2013, meeting between Manafort, an unnamed lobbyist, and California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican.

Gates admitted to falsely claiming that Manafort told him that there were no discussions about Ukraine during the 2013 meeting. He acknowledged that he helped Manafort prepare a report about Ukraine that was discussed in the meeting.

Gates appeared to be in limbo about whether or not to plead guilty to Mueller. He had been negotiating a plea deal with Mueller’s team, CNN reported, but a source close to Gates told The Daily Caller News Foundation last week that he planned to fight the charges and had no intention of pleading guilty.

There were several conflicting reports this week about whether he would plea, with The Daily Beast reporting on Thursday that Gates was ending negotiations with Mueller’s team.

Gates’ family and friends were reportedly urging him not to cooperate with Mueller. He sent a letter to them on Friday saying that he had decided to cooperate because of legal costs and “the circus-like atmosphere” of the case.

“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,” Gates said in a letter to friends and family published by ABC News Friday.

Manafort issued a statement after Gates’ guilty maintaining his innocence.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” he said in a statement.

“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort added. “For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

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