Judge Questions Rick Gates’ Video Appearance For Legal Defense Fund

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has until Wednesday to satisfy a federal judge that his participation, via a Facebook Live video, in a fundraiser for his legal defense fund was not a violation of the court’s gag order in his pending criminal case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the show cause order Friday, after GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman held the fundraiser Tuesday in a hotel just outside Washington, D.C. According to the accounts of reporters there, members of the media nearly outnumbered the half-dozen attendees and it was unclear how much money Burkman raised for the fund, Defending American Rights Legal Fund.

Gates is facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A video of Gates making a statement in support of the legal defense fund was shown at the fundraiser, according to the Washingtonian.

In it, he thanked his potential donors for their “support” and “belief” in his “cause.”

“By being here tonight, you are giving us the tools that we will need to fight, and for that I am extremely grateful,” he said.

He even references the court’s gag order, adding that he is “not able to talk specifically about the case.”

Burkman, the event’s host, is a lobbyist known for attaching himself to bombastic conservative causes. He promoted unsubstantiated and salacious conspiracies about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich, and also led protests over the Dallas Cowboys’ decision to sign the first openly gay football player.

He and Gates appear to share a public relations firm. The firm, The Publicity Agency, did not respond to TPM’s inquiry.

In addition to ordering Gates to explain his video appearance, the judge also ordered him to “explain the nature of his relationship, if any, with Jack Burkman, who reportedly publicly characterized the prosecution as ‘very unfair’ at a December 19, 2017 fundraising event to which journalists were invited, and indicate whether Burkman’s comments are being made at his direction or the direction of his counsel.”

Paul Manafort — Gates’ longtime business partner who is also facing charges brought by Mueller — had issues of his own with abiding by the gag order. Judge Jackson scolded him earlier this month for helping to edit an op-ed touting his work in Ukraine.

Here is the full order:

Defendant Gates is ORDERED to show cause by December 27, 2017 why the Court should not find that his reported personal participation in the creation of a fundraising video to be shown to journalists and disseminated on social media, in which, according to multiple press accounts, defendant makes reference to “the cause” and the goal of “ensuring that our supporters from across the United States hear our message and stand with us,” would not violate this Court’s order 38 of November 8, 2017. Defendant must also explain the nature of his relationship, if any, with Jack Burkman, who reportedly publicly characterized the prosecution as ” very unfair” at a December 19, 2017 fundraising event to which journalists were invited, and indicate whether Burkman’s comments are being made at his direction or the direction of his counsel. The Court emphasizes that it is not intimating that the creation of a legal defense fund or the expression of personal views by third parties not acting at the behest of the defense would violate its order.