Former Donald Trump campaign official, Rick Gates who helped lead President Trump’s campaign after making millions of dollars advising Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin government, has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and related activities.
Gates, who pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy against the United States and lying to the FBI, is expected to face about 18 months in prison under terms of a plea deal and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
In Friday’s hearing, Gates told a federal judge that he understood his potential sentence depended on his cooperation with prosecutors on the charges: conspiracy to commit to defraud the United States and making false statements.
Gates, bearded and wearing a blue suit, tie and cuff links, listened to the judge read the offenses he is agreeing to plead guilty to and the possibility of being sentenced to up to 57 to 71 months in prison. He said “Yes, your honor” repeatedly as Judge Amy Berman Jackson read the court documents.
Thursday, prosecutors described a “scheme” in which the two longtime business partners allegedly laundered $30 million, failed to pay taxes for almost 10 years and used real estate they owned to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in loans.
Gates said that despite his “initial desire to vigorously defend myself,” he has had a “change of heart” in order to protect his family, according to a letter sent to his family and friends, obtained by CNN from a Gates friend.
“The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much,” Gates wrote. “I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”
He wrote that it was “difficult decision” to make, but that ensuring his family’s “well-being is first and foremost.”
“The consequence is the public humiliation, which at this moment seems like a small price to pay for what our children would have to endure otherwise,” he said.
Last Friday, the special counsel produced grand jury indictments for 13 Russian nationals, accusing them of operating a misinformation campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort.
In a statement, Manafort maintained his innocence.
“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,” Manafort said. “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.”