- A LA Times report suggests that Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide, will plead guilty to Special counsel Robert Mueller.
- Gates is the latest of several former 2016 campaign staffers caught in the web of Mueller's investigation, which last week indicted 13 Russians on conspiracy charges.
- The plea may, or may not, have big implications for the ongoing investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller may be about to get a guilty plea from another former Trump staffer. The individual in question: Rick Gates.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Gates, Paul Manafort's longtime junior business partner, will plead guilty to fraud-related charges in the coming days. He has also made clear to prosecutors that he is willing to testify against Manafort, the former chairman of Trump's 2016 campaign. In October, Mueller indicted Gates and Manafort on a combined 12 counts that mostly focused on alleged money laundering, failure to disclose financial assets, and false statements regarding their work for the government of Ukraine and a Russia-affiliated Ukrainian political party. At the time both pleaded not guilty. CNN reported earlier this week that Gates was "finalizing" a revised plea deal in which he would cooperate with the Mueller investigation — according to the LA Times, it's expected to land in a federal court in Washington "within the next few days."
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The implications of what a guilty plea from Gates might mean are unclear. As Vox's Andrew Prokop recently pointed out, it could just be bad for Manafort on the lobbying and money laundering charges levied against him — or it could have bigger implications for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In January, Gates signed a new lawyer who reportedly had been working on cutting him a plea deal, and according to the LA Times, they've been hard at work on negotiations. Per Sunday's report, Gates can expect a "substantial reduction in his sentence" if he fully cooperates with the investigation, and the exact terms of the deal won't be specified in writing. Gates "understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates — but it won't be spelled out."
If Gates does indeed enter a guilty plea, he won't be the first former Trump staffer to do so. The same day Mueller announced charges against Manafort and Gates in October, he also unsealed a weeks-old document revealing that George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his Russia contacts after being arrested in July. (Papadopoulos' drunken bragging about having dirt on Hillary Clinton to an Australian diplomat is what kicked off the FBI's Russia probe in the first place.) In addition, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn agreed to a deal with Mueller in December — pleading guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI.
Sunday's report that Gates is about to enter a guilty plea comes days after Mueller handed down indictments of 13 Russian individuals and 3 Russian companies, accusing them of conspiring to interfere with "US political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016."