According to a report in the Los Angeles Times published Sunday, former Trump campaign official Rick Gates will plea guilty “within days” and testify against his former boss Paul Manafort in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Gates, who had a longstanding partnership with Manafort, served as a deputy campaign manager during Manafort’s tenure as the manager of the Trump campaign. Gates stayed on as an aide after Manafort resigned over his ties to pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. In October, Gates and Manafort were both indicted on twelve counts that centered on their work with Ukraine, including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to launder money. At the time, both pled not guilty.
The piece in the Times confirms and clarifies a CNN report on Thursday that said Gates was close to flipping and reaching a plea bargain following a “Queen for a Day” interview, which the outlet described as an interview “in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.” Why the change in plea? A lawyer involved in the investigation told the Times a prolonged criminal investigation would cause Gates and his family financial stress, and Mueller’s team had been preparing to bring additional tax-related charges against the political consultant.
In exchange for flipping and testifying against Manafort, the Times reports that Gates is expected to receive a reduced sentence of around 18 months. His testimony would add to the case against Manafort but would not be likely to “turn the screws on Trump,” in the words of a source familiar with the plea. The bargain would be the investigation’s fourth guilty plea; former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn previously pled guilty, while Friday’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals included the guilty plea of California resident Richard Pinedo, who sold bank accounts to the Russian operatives.
With Gates set to flip and testify against his former boss, the pressure on Manafort to cooperate is building. Stay tuned.