A federal judge’s evident annoyance that Rick Gates participated, via a pre-taped video statement, in a fundraiser last week did not stop the organizer of the fundraiser from taking a swing at the judge.
“The actions by this judge to curtail First Amendment free speech rights are nothing short of Stalin-esque,” GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman, who is known for inserting himself in conservative causes célèbres, said in a statement Thursday. “I stand by what I said that night and my inalienable right to be able to say it.”
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson had ordered Gates to explain how the video appearance is not a violation of the gag order she had placed on his case. Gates, a former Trump campaign aide, defended taping the video in a court filing Wednesday and indicated he would like to film more videos for future fundraisers for his legal defense fund.
Gates — along with his longtime business partner, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort — is facing charges of tax evasion, money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. Both men have pleaded not guilty, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Burkman held a fundraiser for Gates’ legal defense fund last week at a Holiday Inn in Virginia, just outside of Washington. Gates, in his video statement, thanked the attendees for supporting his “cause” and Burkman for “ensuring supporters from across the United States hear our message.” Burkman, meanwhile bashed the prosecutors as being “very unfair,” according to press reports.
Jackson singled out both sets of comments in her order for Gates to explain the appearance. Gates, in his court filings, stressed that Burkman was not speaking on his behalf, a point Burkman reiterated in his statement Thursday.
“No one told me to opine or make any comments—certainly not Rick Gates, a man I never met or even spoke to before the event. Any suggestion to the contrary is not only completely false but foolish,” Burkman said. “Having worked in Washington for years, I’ve known of Mr. Gates and his work. I am raising money for him because I believe that Mr. Gates must be afforded the tools necessary to mount a competitive legal defense against the government which appears to have unlimited resources to prosecute this case.”