- Businessman Rick Gates is reportedly planning to plead guilty to charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.
- Gates was Manafort’s protégé. The two met as Washington lobbyists three decades ago.
- He joined Donald Trump’s election efforts in 2016 when Manafort became the campaign manager.
On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, on two counts related to conspiracy against the US and making a false statement to federal investigators.
A day earlier, Mueller filed 32 charges against Gates and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, in a superseding indictment, accusing them of financial crimes related to tax and bank fraud.
The two associates were charged on 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the US, and false and misleading statements last October. Both men pleaded not guilty at the time.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel to the US Justice Department leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible coordination with Russia in last year’s election, has been investigating Manafort and Gates because their relationships with foreign leaders and suspicious financial dealings abroad.
Manafort, who has strong ties to Trump’s inner circle, has been a key part of Mueller’s investigation. Gates is a lesser known figure in Washington, but still an influential Trump booster with wide-ranging connections to powerful leaders and businessmen around the world. Here’s what we know about him.
Gates’ early days in Washington politics
Gates met Manafort nearly three decades ago while he was an intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly — one of the most powerful lobbying firms in DC.
The firm worked to help boost the image of dictators and strongmen around the world, including Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Russian-aligned former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Although Manafort left the firm the same year Gates joined, the two reunited in 2006 at a new consulting company called Davis Manafort.
Two years later, Gates took over the company’s affairs in Eastern Europe, flying to London, Paris, and Moscow, meeting with potential business partners, developing deals, and negotiating contracts, according to The New York Times. His trips to Russia included meeting with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch linked to organized crime who is an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Connections to the Trump campaign
Gates joined Trump election efforts in the spring of 2016 when Manafort became the campaign manager, working as Manafort’s deputy. He traveled with Trump and grew close with many top campaign officials, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and adviser Tom Barrack.
After Manafort was ousted as Trump’s campaign chief in August 2016, Gates continued working on behalf of the soon-to-be president, helping fundraise $25 million for the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies and working on Trump’s inaugural committee. As Mueller’s probe intensified in the early months of the Trump administration, Gates left the nonprofit altogether.
As recently as June, however, The Daily Beast reported that Gates was still visiting the White House and working under Barrack, who has remained one of Trump’s most trusted advisers.
Trump reportedly “had no idea [Gates] was in the building, otherwise he wouldn’t be too happy,” a source told the outlet. Gates still had access to the West Wing, even if it wasn’t directly with the president.
Secret payments concealed abroad
During his tenure at Davis Manafort, Gates helped start a private equity fund called Pericles that was set up to buy companies in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The money that was funneled through that fund, reportedly through offshore bank accounts in Cyprus and other countries, is at the center of Mueller’s indictment of Manafort and Gates.
On February 22, Mueller’s office alleged that more than $75 million flowed through the defendants’ offshore accounts and that Manafort laundered over $30 million in undisclosed income with Gates’ assistance. Gates is alleged to have laundered more than $3 million.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the New York Times in June that “Paul’s payments for his work abroad have all come through traceable wire transfers to his U.S. accounts.”
Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, even though his name appears on documents linked to those shell companies in Cyprus.