WASHINGTON – Rick Gates, a former top adviser in the electoral campaign of US President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of financial conspiracy and lying to investigators, within the investigations into Russia’s possible meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.
Gates’s guilty plea could be the step before he agrees to collaborate with the US justice system in the Russia investigations in return for a reduced sentence.
According to court documents, Gates could face between 57 and 71 months in prison, but the special counsel in the case, Robert Mueller, could seek a shorter sentence based on his collaboration.
According to the charges brought Friday by the special counsel shortly before Gates pleaded guilty, the political adviser had taken part in a financial conspiracy to hide the millions of dollars that he and Paul Manafort had been paid by Ukrainian interests for their lobbying and consulting services.
During a deposition on Feb. 1, Rick Gates lied to authorities about the work he and Manafort did for the Ukrainians, the same day his attorneys presented a motion to withdraw from his defense.
The former adviser could face almost six years in prison, but Mueller could ask the court to reduce that sentence based on how well he cooperates with the investigators.
Gates, 45, initially pleaded not guilty of the charges pending against him since last October, including money laundering, while this Thursday another 32 charges linked to bank fraud were brought against him.
In a statement issued after Gates changed his plea, Manafort said: “Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence.”
“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me,” Manafort said.
Gates has consequently taken on a fundamental role in the Russia investigations, being able to provide information to Mueller about the role of Manafort and other advisers to the Trump campaign with regard to the presumed interference of the Kremlin in the 2016 US presidential elections.