Rick Gates, a longtime associate and protege of Paul Manafort, was indicted on multiple criminal charges Monday, including conspiracy against the United States, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation, capping months of tense political drama and a frenzied weekend of speculation.
Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, was also charged. The two men were told to turn themselves in Monday morning after a grand jury indicted them on Friday. Manafort turned himself in at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Gates has now also surrendered to the FBI. They appeared in court Monday afternoon before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson and both pleaded not guilty. Gates’ bail was set at $5 million, while Manafort’s was set at $10 million.
The indictment paints a picture of the two men, who went back three decades in lobbying and political circles, allegedly funneling millions of dollars through offshore accounts while being involved in foreign intrigues, most notably in the Ukraine, and not disclosing them to the U.S. government as required by law.
The Justice Department press release says that Manafort, 68, of Alexandria, Virginia, was indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Gates, 45, of Richmond, Virginia, faces the same charges. (A former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI; he had allegedly “suggested that Donald Trump meet with top Russian leaders during the campaign.”)
Gates was represented in court by a public defender, but plans to hire his own attorney. A spokesman for Gates said in a statement, “He welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court. He is not going to comment further until he has had a chance to review the lengthy indictment with his legal team. In the meanwhile, he would appreciate you respecting his and his family’s privacy as they weather this unexpected and hasty proceeding designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations rather than his right to have counsel of his choice by his side during the most troubling and challenging day for him and his loved ones. This fight is just beginning.”
The New York Times described Gates as “a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe.” Gates’ name first became publicly known during the Republican National Convention when Gates was accused of being responsible for the alleged plagiarism of Melania Trump’s convention speech. However, another woman later took the blame for cribbing some phrases from Michelle Obama’s speech.
Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, was named as special prosecutor after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into whether anyone in the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election. The special prosecutor is also probing whether President Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey. Mueller, a Vietnam veteran who served as FBI director under presidents of both political parties, has come under fierce criticism from some conservatives in recent weeks as the investigation appeared close to reaching the charging stage. The indictment describes activities that relate to the financial and Ukrainian dealings of Gates and Manafort going back years, however, and does not allege Russian collusion in relation to Trump’s political campaign. Trump tweeted after the news broke, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus????? …Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rick Gates Has Worked as a Lobbyist & Is Accused of Working as an Unregistered Agent of Ukraine
You can read the full indictment against Manafort and Rick Gates above. The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates (identified as Richard W. Gates III) served “for years as political consultants and lobbyists. Between at least 2006 and 2015, Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian political party whose leader Victor Yanukovych was President from 2010 to 2014), Yanukovych, and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions that formed in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Russia.”
The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates “generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.”
The indictment contends that Manafort and Gates “funneled millions of dollars in payments into foreign nominee companies and bank accounts, opened by them and their accomplices in… Cyprus, Saint Vincent…the Grenadines…and the Seychelles.” The indictment says that Manafort and Gates were required by law to report to the United States their work and fees because they “directed a campaign to lobby United States officials on behalf of the Government of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine and Ukrainian political parties.”
The New York Times alleged in a story printed months before the indictment that Gates flew “to Moscow for meetings with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch.” The efforts of Gates and Manafort in Ukraine were on behalf of a pro-Russian political party, according to The Times. In the past, Gates told the Times that he and Manafort had done nothing wrong and were being targeted by “flawed news media reports.” The Times quoted him as saying, “Everything was done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”
Rick Gates first surfaced in the Donald Trump campaign publicly during the summer of 2016, and he was brought into it by Paul Manafort, previous news reports indicated. Politico reported that Manafort, the man Trump hired (briefly) as his “new chief campaign strategist” brought in people with lobbying histories to hold key positions in the Trump campaign. One of those people, said Politico, was Rick Gates.
The Guardian says Manafort – who was brought into the Trump campaign to help Trump pin down Republican delegate support – “is a veteran Republican operative with connections to a number of foreign regimes, including that of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.” According to Politico, “Manafort has made a decades-long career drifting between GOP presidential politics and lucrative lobbying and consulting work. The firm he helped found developed a niche representing a roster of controversial international clients that has been described as “the torturers’ lobby.”
The political news site identified Gates as once working at the Hartford, Connecticut-based firm Business Strategies and Insight LLC, registering with another man “to lobby Congress on behalf of Xavier Chemical Co., a Georgia firm that was locked in a dispute with the U.S. Army about a federal contract to operate a former ammunition plant.”
Gates also lobbied for “GTECH, which dominated the state lottery equipment business but also came under legal scrutiny for its business practices,” Politico reported, adding, “More recently, Gates represented the American Stock Exchange and VILF Consultants, a Virgin Islands company lobbying on the territory’s infrastructure. Gates was named in a racketeering lawsuit brought in U.S. federal court by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko against Manafort and his associates for their work for pro-Russian strongman Yanukovych. The complaint, first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, describes Gates as an agent of Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who Tymoshenko accuses of improperly shielding profits.” The suit was dismissed because it fell outside the jurisdiction of the United States.
CNN first reported the news of the federal indictments on October 27, revealing that the federal grand jury had approved the first criminal charges in the Mueller probe.
That sparked a social media parlor game all weekend about whom Mueller was charging, with people passing around names including former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; and even Trump’s own son, Donald Trump Jr. Others noted that Mueller is investigating Trump himself, for obstruction of justice. CNN noted that “top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.”
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone was suspended by Twitter after launching into a profanity-laced tirade against CNN hosts in the wake of the news breaking about the indictments. Before he was suspended, Stone had tweeted that he spoke with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort after the CNN story and that Manafort indicated he knew nothing about the special prosecutor’s action.
2. Rick Gates Was Assigned With Putting Down the ‘Never Trump Rebellion’ at the Republican National Convention & Was Dubbed a Top ‘Delegate Wrangler’
Rick Gates’ long association with Paul Manafort brought him into the upper echelon of the Donald Trump campaign for president. He was no minor player. Gates was heavily involved in efforts to make sure that party rules were not changed at the Republican National Convention in a way that would hurt Trump. “Trump aides and RNC staff could be seen fanning across the floor, pulling aside delegates and coordinating their counter-efforts,” said CNN at the time. “Top Trump delegate wrangler Rick Gates said he was confident they would be able to repeat their success last week when the Rules Committee met and blocked efforts to unbind the delegates.”
CNN quoted Gates as saying: “Our goal is to destroy them.” Daily Mail says Gates might have been so distracted by the convention floor issues that he didn’t make sure Melania’s speech was fully vetted.
Daily Mail says Gates had the title of deputy convention manager and was “in charge of putting down a ‘NeverTrump’ rebellion.”
The New York Times reported that Gates and Manafort met three decades before when Gates served as an “intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly,” a consulting firm in Washington D.C. that “specialized in running Republican campaigns and then lobbying the politicians they helped elect.” According to The Times, the Trump Organization was a client over a “casino transaction” and a failed “airline venture” and Manafort worked with dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seo. According to the Times, Gates worked with “another rising Republican lobbyist, Rick Davis and in 2006 joined him and Mr. Manafort at their new company, Davis Manafort.” Davis later ran John McCain’s presidential campaign, The Times reported.
Gates’ life has now shadowed Manafort’s in another way: Indictments. It was the first salvo (time will tell whether there are others) in the high-stakes Mueller investigation. Since being named as special prosecutor in May, Robert Mueller has assembled a team of veteran prosecutors. You can see a list of the lawyers here. They include mostly lawyers with backgrounds in the Justice Department, Solicitor General’s Office, and east coast U.S. Attorney’s offices.
However, some of them have made campaign contributions to Democratic causes in the past, including Hillary Clinton, raising controversy. The Los Angeles Times reported that “at least seven of the 15 lawyers have previously given money to Democrats.”
In June, CNN reported that “three members of the legal team known to have been hired so far by special counsel Robert Mueller to handle the Russia investigation have given political donations almost exclusively to Democrats,” naming Jeannie Rhee, James Quarles, and Andrew Weissmann. That was before most of the lawyers on the team were identified, however. According to CNN, “two of the lawyers gave the maximum $2,700 donation to Hillary Clinton last year.”
Fox News reported in July: “Of the 15 attorneys currently on staff for Mueller, at least seven have donated to Democratic candidates and campaigns, including Trump’s 2016 rival Hillary Clinton. The rest have not made political donations, according to federal records.” In addition to the attorneys already named by CNN, Fox News listed Andrew Goldstein, Elizabeth Prelogar, Brandon Van Grack, and Rush Atkinson. There are now 9 Mueller lawyers with Democratic campaign donations, FEC records show.
3. Gates Was Initially Accused of Being Responsible for the Alleged Melania Speech Plagiarism
It was one of the more dramatic moments of the 2016 presidential campaign: Now First Lady Melania Trump was accused of cribbing parts of her convention speech from First Lady Michelle Obama. Gates’ name surfaced initially in media reports as the guy people were blaming.
Gates was initially accused by multiple media outlets, citing anonymous sources, of overseeing the speech, leading some on Twitter to label him a “scapegoat” at the time. Another person, Meredith McIver, an “in-house staff writer” at the Trump Organization, eventually said she was responsible for the Melania plagiarism.
Reported Roll Call before the McIver admission: “Campaign aide Rick Gates signed off on and edited the speech, according to The Guardian and other media outlets.” However, The New York Times reported that the Trump campaign denies Gates bears responsibility, and CNN said Gates said he “absolutely” was not responsible for the similarities in Melania Trump’s speech and Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention address.
The New York Times said a veteran speechwriter named Matthew Scully may have helped write an earlier version of Melania’s speech but it was all but ripped up. The Times, quoting a source, said that Scully, “a contract speechwriter” wrote the early draft “several weeks ago. Ms. Trump then took that speech and made substantial changes to it, according to this person, with help from someone working at the Trump Organization.” The Times also says that a speechwriter named John McConnell may have helped Scully with the early torn up draft.
The speech accusations show, though, the degree to which Gates was embedded in the Trump campaign by the convention.
Mueller was named special prosecutor by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General of the United States. In March, AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after questions were raised about his contacts with Russian officials. Then, some time later, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, which eventually provoked Rosenstein to name Mueller as special prosecutor to look into the allegations of potential Russian collusion as well as obstruction of justice.
Rosenstein gave Mueller authorities to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly” from the Russia investigation.
President Trump has argued in recent days that there is more evidence showing Hillary Clinton’s campaign colluded with the Russians. “It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!” the president wrote on Twitter. The Washington Post reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the research by a former British spy that produced the controversial, salacious, and unverified anti-Trump dossier. The backgrounds of those who provided the information in it – and whether they had Russian government connections – has not been answered. CNN previously reported that the dossier was used, in part, by the FBI and James Comey to obtain a FISA warrant against a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. “The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate,” Page, according to CNN.
“I think this further proves if there was anyone that was colluding with the Russians to influence the election, look no further than the Clintons, look no further than the D.N.C.,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News. “Everything that the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. were falsely accusing this President of doing over the past year, they were actually doing themselves.”
Some conservatives have increasingly argued in recent months that Mueller has a conflict of interest because he knows former FBI director James Comey (although they reportedly only had a work rapport) and because he was FBI director during an Obama-era uranium deal that conservatives think should also be investigated. “The Justice Department lifted a gag order that will allow a former FBI informant speak to congressional panels investigating an Obama-era deal in which a Russian-backed company was able to get control of a significant amount of the United States uranium supply,” reported The New York Post. As the Post explained, “Russian energy giant Rosatom acquired Canadian mining company Uranium One, which has a mine in Wyoming, and then was able to get control of 20 percent of America’s uranium stockpile.” The catch, according to The Post, “News reports in 2015 revealed that former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 from a Kremlin-linked bank for a 2010 speech and the Clinton Foundation received millions in charitable donations around the time of the Uranium One deal.”
Fox News explained of conservative objection to Mueller: “Hill investigators also are looking into a Russian firm’s uranium deal that was approved by the Obama administration in 2010 despite reports that the FBI – then led by Mueller – had evidence of bribery involving a subsidiary of that firm.” The Wall Street Journal called for Mueller to step down because the FBI once considered paying the dossier author. The Journal’s point is that Mueller, as a former FBI director, is too closely tied to the FBI to independently investigate its role in the Russian matters.
According to Raw Story, the average grand jury investigate takes 17 months, but Robert Mueller is known for acting with greater speed.
4. Rick Gates Was Described as ‘Lurking Around the White House’ & Remained Associated With Trump After Manafort Left, Serving on the Inaugural Committee
Paul Manafort didn’t last long as Trump’s campaign chairman, but Rick Gates remained a figure around the White House. “Rick Gates, the longtime lobbying partner of ousted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is still making multiple visits to the White House—even though the Trump administration has sought to distance itself from Manafort,” reported the Daily Beast in June 2017 in a story headlined “Pro Russian Lobbyist Is Lurking Around the White House.”
Manafort was on the outs with Trump. “However, his top deputy Gates—who also worked on behalf of Russian interests—has managed to wedge himself back into Trump-world. having landed a sweet new gig with one of President Donald Trump’s best and wealthiest friends,” reported Daily Beast. According to the New York Times, Gates helped other Trump aides “raise $25 million for a new pro-Trump group, America First Policies” and for a time “moved to the Republican National Committee” to work out agreements with Trump’s campaign.
“Nearly everywhere Paul Manafort went, it seemed, Rick Gates followed, his protégé and junior partner. Election campaigns in Eastern Europe and Africa. Business ventures with a Russian tycoon. The upper ranks of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaing,” The New York Times wrote, adding that Gates survived the Manafort “purge,” retaining “a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee.”
“After leaving the Trump-boosting nonprofit America First Policies in March…Gates is now working directly for Tom Barrack, according to eight sources in and around the Trump White House…Barrack, a millionaire and former Trump fundraiser who went on to lead the presidential inaugural committee,” reported Daily Beast.
Who is Robert Mueller? According to Biography.com, Mueller served as “director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013.” The site reports that “Robert Swan Mueller III was born on August 7, 1944, in New York City, and grew up outside of Philadelphia. He attended the prestigious St. Paul’s school in New Hampshire, where he captained the soccer, lacrosse and hockey teams, the latter alongside future Secretary of State John Kerry. Mueller followed his father to Princeton, graduating with a bachelor’s in politics in 1966, and earned his master’s in international relations from New York University the following year.”
According to his FBI biography. “Robert Mueller was nominated by President George W. Bush and became the sixth Director of the FBI on September 4, 2001.” Mueller is a Vietnam veteran. After college, “He joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an officer for three years, leading a rifle platoon of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Following his military service, Mr. Mueller earned a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1973 and served on the Law Review.”
Mueller worked as a lawyer on the west coast at first. “Mr. Mueller worked as a litigator in San Francisco until 1976. He then served for 12 years in United States Attorney’s Offices, first in the Northern District of California in San Francisco, where he rose to be chief of its criminal division. In 1982, he moved to Boston as an Assistant United States Attorney, where he investigated and prosecuted major financial fraud, terrorist, and public corruption cases, as well as narcotics conspiracies and international money launderers,” his FBI bio says.
Mueller also worked as a partner in a Boston law firm, as an assistant AG under AG Richard Thornburgh, and as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington D.C. He also served as U.S. Attorney in San Francisco. Supporters have noted that he served in the administration of both Republican and Democratic presidents, as his tenure as FBI director spanned part of the administration of Barack Obama.
The FBI noted, “As FBI Director for 12 years—he agreed to extend his 10-year term at the request of President Obama—Mueller faced the daunting task of keeping the country safe from terror attacks while maintaining the Bureau’s established crime-fighting role.”
5. Gates Used Money From OffShore Accounts to Pay for Interior Decorating & His Children’s Tuition, the Indictment Alleges
Rick Gates served as the head of a local neighborhood association in Virginia. His spare LinkedIn page identifies him as living in Richmond, Virginia and being the managing partner at Pericles LP. He is married to Sarah Brooke Gates, according to online records. They took out a $1.5 million home loan in 2007, according to The New York Times, which reports that Gates was the “business” arm of Manafort’s activities.
The indictment accuses Gates of using money funneled through offshore accounts to pay for “his mortgage, children’s tuition, and interior decorating of his Virginia residence.” The indictment alleges that Gates transferred $3 million from offshore accounts to “other accounts he controlled.”
Authorities had previously raided Paul Manafort’s home. “In July, F.B.I. agents staged a pre-dawn raid on Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Virginia,” reported The New Yorker.
Manafort’s finances and pre-Trump campaign work in the Ukraine are also receiving scrutiny. “The FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, includes a keen focus on a series of suspicious wire transfers in which offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013,” Buzzfeed reported.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s work in Turkey has also drawn attention. “The former Army general was also paid more than $500,000 in 2016 for lobbying that benefitted the Turkish government and discredited U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen,” reported The New York Daily News. Former CIA Director James Woolsey spoke with FBI agents working for Mueller “regarding allegations that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn discussed a possibly illegal removal of a Turkish cleric from the U.S.”