Gates Defends Video Appearance At Fundraiser To Pay For His Legal Defense

Susan Walsh/AP

Rick Gates’ attorneys argued in a court filing Wednesday that the former Trump campaign aide’s appearance, via a pre-taped video statement, at a fundraiser for his legal defense fund last week was not a violation of a federal judge’s gag order in his criminal case.

The filing also stressed that the fundraiser’s host, Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman, was not speaking on Gates’ behalf when he criticized the prosecutors in the case. It suggested that there would be more fundraisers for Gates’ legal fees to come and that those fundraisers will require “similar sentiments of gratitude” from Gates.

“To avoid incurring additional legal expense to explain his expressions of gratitude, Mr. Gates welcomes any guidance that the Court may provide in this regard,” the filing said.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Court Amy Berman Jackson, had last week ordered Gates to explain why the video statement was not a violation of her Nov. 8 gag order. Additionally, she asked for an explanation of comments Burkman reportedly made at the fundraiser calling the prosecution “very unfair.”

Along with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Gates is facing charges of tax evasion, money laundering, and failure to disclose foreign lobbying, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Gates and Manafort have pleaded not guilty

“In response to the Court’s Order that he explain the nature of his relationship with Mr. Burkman, Mr. Gates informs the Court that while he knows him (but has not physically met with him), Mr. Burkman is not and never has been a representative or spokesperson for Mr. Gates,” Gates’ attorneys said. The attorneys added in a footnote that they have declined to speak to the media about the case, “despite regular requests for comment and despite inaccurate media reports that have been widely distributed over the Internet.”

His attorneys also explained remarks that Gates made in the video about his ““cause” and “ensuring that supporters from across the United States hear our message and stand with us.”

“[T]he wording simply referred to his ability to raise resources sufficient to permit him and his legal team to stand up to the overwhelming resources of the Special Counsel’s Office, which has an army of top government prosecutors, and defend himself with vigor throughout the legal process and in the courtroom consistently with his constitutional rights,” his attorneys said. “By ‘supporters’ who ‘stand with us,’ Mr. Gates was only referring to those throughout the United States who are willing to contribute to help defray the costs of a defense necessary to adequately defend himself in the Courtroom against the prosecutorial team arrayed against him.”

Read the full court filing below: