The circle of people under scrutiny in the various investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election apparently has widened to include Rick Gates (pictured at left), former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s closest ally on the trail.
According to a memo sent out to former campaign officials and obtained by various news outlets, a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team requested the preservation of all documents related to Russia and Ukraine, as well as travel records and all documents connected to a small handful of former campaign officials. Gates’ name was on that list, sandwiched between other Trump allies known to be under federal investigation like Manafort and Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser.
Gates told the New York Times on Thursday that he has not been contacted by federal officials. He brushed aside any allegations of personal wrongdoing, telling the newspaper “Everything was done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”
“Everybody has tried to take these instances of anyone in the Trump orbit doing something in Russia, and then fast-forwarding however many years, and then saying it is evidence of collusion with Russia on the election,” Gates griped to the Times. “It’s totally ridiculous and without merit.”
Manafort and Gates joined the campaign together in spring 2016 to assist with preparations for the Republican National Convention. The duo was tasked with convincing delegates to vote in Trump’s favor, and worked from a box on Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena nicknamed “The Eagle’s Nest”—a reference to a Nazi Party country home gifted to Adolf Hitler, according to a Daily Beast report.
After Manafort was ousted from the campaign over reports that he received off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, Gates hung on, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee and assisting Trump donor Thomas Barrack Jr. with preparations for the inauguration. In January, he joined America First Policies, a new pro-Trump outfit organized by the campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, and former surrogate Katrina Pierson. He served there until March, when he reportedly was forced out over concerns about the work he and Manafort undertook in Ukraine.
That work is outlined in detail in the New York Times profile out Friday, which lays out the years Gates has spent as Manafort’s protege. They first crossed paths in 2006 at lobbying firm Davis Manafort, where they worked to bolster the image of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly former president Viktor Yanukovych. As the Times reported last year, Manafort was slated to receive $12.7 million in cash payments in a secret ledger of cash payments maintained by Yanukovych’s political party.
Gates’ name did not appear in that ledger, but he played a key role in seeking investment deals with Kremlin-allied oligarchs across Eastern Europe such as aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska.
Manafort’s financial dealings have been under scrutiny by federal investigators since 2014, and the federal Russia probe now involves agents from the Treasury Department division specializing in money laundering.