Former Trump campaign and transition adviser Rick Gates is officially Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s latest cooperating witness. On Friday, he announced he’d had a “change of heart” about the prospects of a drawn-out court battle and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and another of making false statements to federal authorities.
Contrary to speculation, that move did not prompt former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to “alter his commitment” to defending his innocence, as Manafort said in a statement. Mueller filed a new set of charges against Manafort in Virginia this week and a superseding indictment against him in Washington, D.C. on Friday. Prosecutors allege that Manfort and Gates hid tens of millions of dollars made from lobbying work they did in Ukraine, failing to pay taxes and to disclose their work for a foreign government.
We learned this week that, as part of this work, Manafort reportedly commissioned white-shoe law firm Skadden, Arps in 2012 to write a report justifying the conviction of a Ukrainian politician who was an opponent of Manafort’s client. In a surprise development, Alex van der Zwaan, a former lawyer for Skadden, pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s team about his conversations with Gates on Tuesday.
Another tidbit on the Mueller front: Gates admitted that his most recent lie to the FBI and Special Counsel came on Feb 1. According to his plea deal, he falsely said that he did not know that Ukraine was discussed in a March 2013 meeting between Manafort and two individuals that Foreign Agents Registration Act filings suggest were pro-Russia Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former-congressman-turned-lobbyist Vin Weber.
President Trump spent the week lashing out at Barack Obama, who he claimed had failed to take sufficient action to safeguard against Russian meddling. He also took aim at the media, tweeting that MSNBC and CNN were “scammed” because they covered anti-Trump rallies that, Mueller revealed last week, were orchestrated by Russians working for the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA). Most of the Russians’ influence operation was focused on helping Trump, according to Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians affiliated with the IRA.