WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his second-in-command Rick Gates turned themselves in to the FBI this morning on a 12-count indictment including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Gates, a resident of Richmond, Va., stayed at the Trump campaign and worked on the inaugural committee after Manafort left.
The indictment charges that Manafort and Gates laundered money to hide payments from Kremlin-linked Ukraine clients from “approximately 2006 thorough at least 2016.”
Gates joined America First Policies when the nonprofit formed in January to promote Trump’s agenda, and left after just a few months.
In March, former FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI, “as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Comey was fired by Trump on May 9. On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation.
The Daily Beast reported in June that Gates was working for Tom Barrack, Trump’s longtime friend and head of his inaugural committee who played an instrumental role in bringing Manafort onto the campaign. Gates has accompanied Barrack on multiple visits to the White House. One former Trump campaign official told the DB that Gates was Trump’s “whipping boy.”
Gates joined Manafort’s lobbying firm Davis Manafort in 2006; the two had met many years earlier when Gates was an intern at an earlier Manafort firm — Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly — where the Trump Organization was a client. Davis Manafort once had Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has deep Kremlin ties, as a client until the relationship soured; they also began lobbying for Moscow-linked Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who took shelter in Russia after his 2014 ouster. The New York Times reported in June that Gates’ name appeared on documents linked to shell companies in Cyprus established by Manafort’s firm to accept money from Eastern European clients; Gates told the paper he’d done nothing wrong.
Gates accompanied Manafort when the former campaign chairman and campaign manager joined the Trump presidential effort in spring 2016. He was blamed for Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech that plagiarized parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. The Guardian reported at the time that a campaign source said Gates “signed off on the speech and edited it.”
After Manafort left the Trump campaign in mid-August 2016 amid controversy over reaping millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, the Trump campaign said Gates was staying on in the function of a liaison to the Republican National Committee.
The indictment says that when contacted by the Justice Department in 2016, both Manafort and Gates “responded with a series of false and misleading statements.”
Gates used money from tax-haven offshore accounts, “which he was instrumental in opening,” prosecutors allege, to finance “his mortgage, children’s tuition, and interior decorating of his Virginia residence.”
The indictment adds that Manafort and Gates “developed a false and misleading cover story that would distance themselves and the Government of Ukraine, Yanukovych, and the Party of Regions,” a pro-Russia Ukrainian party, from unnamed Company A and Company B.
“In the wake of extensive press reports on Manafort and his connections with Ukraine, on August 16, 2016, Gates communicated false talking points to Company B in writing,” including claiming “at no time did our firm or members provide any direct lobbying support.”