Gates’ Plea Agreement Promises Full Cooperation With Mueller Probe

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23:  Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing February 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gates is expected to plead guilty to a 12-charge indictment that includes money laundering and conspiracy.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America

Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Trump, pleaded guilty to two counts  — conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to federal authorities — in a federal courtroom Friday at a hearing that suggested Special Counsel Robert Mueller was expecting months of cooperation from Gates as part of the plea deal.

At the hearing, Andrew Weissmann, one of the attorneys representing the special counsel’s office, said that they would prefer not to set a sentencing date for Gates yet, and were seeking a status conference in three to four months instead. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a deadline for a status report for May 14.

The conviction of Gates is part of Mueller’s Russia probe. Gates — along with his longtime business partner, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort —had first been indicted by Mueller in Octoberin Washington, and a second indictment against them in Virginia became public on Thursday.  Manafort, in a statement Friday via his spokesman, said he was maintaining his innocence.

At Gates’ plea hearing, the judge floated that the sentencing guidelines would likely recommend Gates serve between 57 and 71 months in prison, and pay a $20,000 to $200,000 fine. Jackson cautioned, however, that she may ultimately stray from those recommendations.

That estimated sentence also did not reflect whatever cooperation Gates offers Mueller’s team. Weissmann confirmed that the government had agreed to consider filing a motion at the time of sentencing based on Gates’ level of cooperation.

Additionally, Gates’ lawyer Tom Green indicated that they were reserving the right to argue that the sentence be less because of the “disproportionate conduct” between Manafort and Gates.

A copy of the plea agreement handed out to reporters at the courthouse said that Gates “shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” with Mueller. That cooperation includes the potential that Gates would testify at proceedings at Mueller’s request.

At the hearing Weissmann, along with another member of Mueller’s team, Greg Andres walked through a statement of offense that was among the documents given to reporters after the hearing. (A third Mueller team attorney, Kyle Freeny, was also present.)

The statement of offense said that Gates assisted Manafort in wiring “millions of dollars” from offshore accounts for goods, services and real eastate without Manafort paying taxes on it. Gates “repeatedly misled” Manafort’s tax accountants with Manafort’s knowledge, according to the statement of offense. The document also outlined Gates’ involvement in a lobbying campaign for Ukraine in the U.S. that he failed to properly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

According to the document, the false statement count stemmed from a February 1, 2018 proffer session between Gates, his attorney and the special counsel’s office. (At the hearing, Gates confirmed that his original team of lawyers, who were only allowed to withdraw from his representation Thursday, were not involved in the plea negotiations.)

Gates misled authorities during the interview by telling them that he had been told that Manafort, an unnamed lobbyist and an unnamed member of Congress did not discuss Ukraine at a March 2013 meeting, according to the document. Green, at the hearing, stressed that Gates did not know what had been discussed, and that the misrepresentation he was admitting to was saying that he had been told Ukraine wasn’t discussed.