-- Richard Gates, Donald Trump’s one-time campaign aide, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts: conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities.
Gates is the latest person in the Trump campaign's orbit to face charges in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest. He is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson noted during Gates’ plea hearing.
Inside a federal courtroom in Washington on Friday, Gates admitted to helping former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort steer tens of millions of dollars overseas and then hide it from U.S. tax authorities.
“Mr. Manafort did not pay taxes on that income,” and Gates “was aware it’s illegal to hide income from the IRS,” prosecutor Greg Andres said, noting that Gates helped prepare Manafort’s tax forms. Gates also helped hide Manafort’s foreign bank accounts, he conceded in court.
Another prosecutor also told the judge that Gates and Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent, as required by U.S. law, even though he was lobbying behalf of the government in Ukraine.
At one point, Berman Jackson asked Gates how he pleads to the charges against him, and he said, “Guilty, your honor.”
Highlighting the weight of the decision he was making before he pleaded guilty, Gates noted to the judge, “I am 45 years old, your honor.”
The conspiracy, prosecutors say, spans from 2006 to 2017 and involved more than $75 million that flowed through offshore accounts.
Prosecutors say Gates also lied to the special counsel’s office on Feb. 1 when he said that Manafort denied to him that Ukraine was discussed at a March 2013 meeting with a lobbyist and member of Congress.
According to the charging document, Manafort never denied that to Gates and he helped Manafort prepare a report referencing Ukraine after the meeting.
While U.S. law indicates Gates could face up to 10 years in prison for the charges he pleaded guilty to on Friday, Berman Jackson said U.S. sentencing guidelines recommend he face no more than about six years in prison, and as little as four years and three months behind bars.
Nevertheless, Mueller’s team agreed to allow Gates’ attorney, Thomas Green, to argue for an even lesser sentence given his pending cooperation.
Green indicated he plans to argue that Gates’ conduct was not as egregious as Manafort’s.
It’s “disproportionate conduct,” Green said.
As part of this plea deal, Gates is giving up his rights under the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act — as the special counsel’s office might seek certain information or documents from him.
Manafort said Gates' plea does not affect his own stance.
“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," Manafort said in a statement. "This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”