Former Trump campaign aide pleads guilty to 'conspiracy against the US'

Rick Gates is now the third member of the Trump campaign to flip: What does this mean for the Trump administration?
6:42 | 02/24/18

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Transcript for Former Trump campaign aide pleads guilty to 'conspiracy against the US'
We turn to the other major story out of Washington, a fresh scalp for Robert Mueller. A guilty plea from former deputy director of the trump campaign Rick Gates. He is now the third member of the trump campaign to flip and agree to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. Gates joinsmichael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George papadopoulos. ABC's David Wright is at the white house for us this morning. Good morning. Reporter: Good morning, Paula and Dan. Rick Gates' guilty plea could be a significant development. He is trump's former deputy campaign manager, now cooperating with the special counsel in exchange for a lighter sentence. Just how significant? It depends on who he implicates and what for. Outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., a dramatic entrance for this 45-year-old former political consultant. Now center stage in the Russia probe. During the campaign, Rick Gates was strictly a background player. Quite literally so at the Republican national convention. That's him standing right behind the nominee during a rehearsal. Gates traveled on the candidate's plane right down through election day and served as a consultant during the transition too. He's now pled guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. And to lying to FBI investigators. He's the third former trump associate to flip, along with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former foreign policy aide George papadopoulos. All of them agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Bob Mueller in exchange for lighter sentences. Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I've had a change of heart, he explained to friends and family. In a letter obtained by ABC news, calling it a gut-wrenching decision. Robert Mueller would not have made this deal unless he felt Gates had something substantial to add to their case and their investigation. Reporter: President trump has always insisted he's not worried about the investigation, which he sees as a distraction. There's been no collusion between us and the Russians. There was absolutely no collusion. There is absolutely no collusion. Reporter: But Gates' decision to plea bargain increases the pressure on the man his partner for decades. Former trump campaign chair Paul manafort who said in his own statement, 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. There's no question that manafort has to be concerned about the fact that his longtime partner is now playing on the government's side. Reporter: In addition to the guilty plea from Gates the special counsel also filed new charges against manafort, five new counts ranging from money laundering to conspiracy against the U.S. He, of course, continues to maintain his innocence. Before we let you go a whole other topic. Security clearances, the changes in policy to those at the white house. The president was asked specifically about his son-in-law Jared Kushner's temporary security clearance. What did he say. Reporter: That's right. This is another huge issue here at the white house exposed by the rob porter scandal. People performing sensitive jobs without full security clearances and among those affected, Jared Kushner there. The president's son-in-law. The president says that he's going to let his chief of staff, general John Kelly make the final determination who gets to keep their access to top secret information even without a full clearance. And "The Washington post" reports today rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general has told the white house that Kushner's clearance could take a while. Interesting to see the president react if he revokes it. Thanks, David. Reporting in from the white house. Let's bring in ABC news contributor Tara setmayer. Good morning to you. Thanks for being here. I want to talk about this guilty plea from former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates who may testify against his old boss, Paul manafort. Seems like major developments but what do they have to do with the heart of the matter which is Russia collusion. We have to understand that Robert Mueller is building a case. There are many facets to what's going on here. His mandate has wide latitude. It goes beyond collusion. It goes beyond obstruction of justice. The mandate that Mueller has includes anything that comes up with the investigation of this. So the -- why this is signicant is because of the proximity that both manafort and Gates had to trump himself and the campaign given their positions. Manafort was the campaign chairman. Rick Gates was the deputy. And Rick Gates stayed through the campaign and through the transition, so any information that they may know is important so the fact that they may have been involved in these financial crimes prior to the election and through the election and through their time on the campaign could also mean that they may know something going on if there was some intersectionality between his dealings and the Russians. Manafort was there with trump Jr. In that infamous meeting, Jared Kushner where they thought they were getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from potential Russian agents so this is part of many layers that Robert Mueller is investigating that could lead to something much bigger. Let's talk about gun control. How do we get it to a point where we're having rationale and civil suggests and are you confident real change can happen. I think what's different about this debate is the fact that the students at parkland have been so active and so vocal and so many people have come to the point where something must be done and the president of the United States is affected by those stories. We saw the listening session in the white house. The president broke from the NRA. Actually entertaining the possibility of banning bump stocks, of increasing the age limit for assault rifles and then the background checks and I think that those issues that have some consensus like background checks and the age limb, you see it's more popular and the president may??lead that. The idea of arming teachers not as popular and that could be polarizing and I think you see more lawmakers breaking with the NRA and the president has an opportunity, a unique opportunity to lead that fight which I don't think we've seen in the past before. Saw him spend time with those kids. They are very doing a fascinating thing. They certainly are. Thank you very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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