- A federal court in Virginia granted the special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to dismiss more than 20 charges brought against Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
- Gates pleaded guilty last week to two counts and is cooperating with the special counsel’s office.
- Mueller’s decision to drop the charges indicates Gates appears to be in step with the plea deal Gates negotiated last week, but it also indicates Gates most likely has something of significant value to offer the special counsel.
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A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday granted a motion by the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to dismiss several charges brought against Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The charges were brought on Thursday in a 32-count superseding indictment that accused Gates and Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, of financial crimes related to tax and bank fraud. Gates was charged with 24 counts related to tax fraud, bank fraud, bank-fraud conspiracy, and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Gates pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of making a false statement to federal investigators.
He and Manafort had also been charged in October with 12 counts including conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false and misleading statements, and failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Manafort has since maintained his innocence.
Gates was a key player during critical moments surrounding the 2016 US election, and the motion to dismiss the charges against him is most likely a sign he has something of value to offer Mueller, who’s investigating Russia’s interference in the election.
Gates joined the Trump campaign in early 2016 and worked as a deputy under Manafort, then the campaign chairman. Manafort stepped down that August after news reports surfaced about his murky ties to Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions – and as Trump slumped in polls.
But even after Manafort’s departure, Gates maintained a significant role in the campaign’s operations, reportedly at the request of Steve Bannon, who became the head of the campaign.
In addition to working as an intermediary between the campaign and the Republican National Committee in 2016, Gates frequently travelled with Trump and later served as an adviser on the inaugural committee after Trump’s election in November.
Gates was eventually ousted from a pro-Trump lobbying group in April amid questions about Russia’s interference in the election, but he continued to visit the White House as late as June, according to The Daily Beast.
Mueller’s office’s move to dismiss last week’s charges against Gates appear to be in step with the plea deal the former Trump adviser coordinated with the special counsel’s office, said Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal law.
Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of New York, floated another possibility.
Sandick said last week’s 32-count indictment, which was filed in the Eastern District Court of Virginia, could be described as a “rocket docket.”
“Their cases move as or more quickly than cases anywhere else in the country,” Sandick said. “Gates would need to plead guilty to these counts in the next couple of months and then be sentenced promptly – in three or four months.”
He added that Mueller would most likely need more time than that to “harvest Gates’ cooperation.”
“Once the cooperating defendant is sentenced, the prosecutor has much less leverage to encourage cooperation,” Sandick said. But because judges in the district typically do not adjourn sentencing, Mueller opted to dismiss the charges “without prejudice,” Sandick said, which ensures they could be reinstated in the future if needed.
“Mueller will want to retain leverage against Gates to ensure that he cooperates faithfully and diligently with the investigation,” Ohlin said. “To ensure that happens, Gates won’t be sentenced for the two charges until after he has cooperated with the prosecution in the Russia investigation.”