With a quick appearance in federal court this afternoon, Gates entered a guilty plea to two counts: lying to investigators and conspiracy to launder money. Considering the myriad of legal issues he was facing, this was likely the best course of action for him as it will ensure he does only a few years (or months) in prison as opposed to the lifetime he was facing with the money laundering charges brought in October and yesterday by Robert Mueller and the probe.
This falls heaviest on Paul Manafort, who was the mentor to Gates on all varieties of illegal activity. Manafort was also hit with two additional indictments (and over 30 counts of criminal charges) on money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud. Now that Gates is cooperating with Mueller, Manafort is in a lose-lose situation.
Option #1: Flip on Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and all of the other individuals you dealt with on the campaign. Give Mueller all of the dirt. Manafort will still be deeply in debt, unemployable and could face possible retaliation from the Russians he used to work for, as well as the Republicans who will want him gone. He’ll have done the right thing for once in his life, but will still likely do time.
Option #2: Fight it out via trial and appeal. It does not appear to be a winning strategy at this point, in fact it is a tremendous gamble. Is Manafort going to bank on a Trump pardon? That won’t happen until 2021 at the earliest, there’s little chance that Trump would pardon him prior to running for re-election in 2020. Can Manafort even afford a trial? It seems as though he’s in debt up to his eyeballs, not working because he’s under house arrest and burning through cash. It’s unclear if he would risk going bankrupt to get thrown in jail for (potentially) the rest of his life.
The unknown variable in this whole affair is what Gates knows. Gates would likely have a lot of insight into any non-Russian illegal campaign activity. But what does Gates know about Trump and Russia? Potentially a lot, but more than Manafort who had direct interactions with the Trump family and the Russians at the same time? That’s unclear at this point in time.
There’s only a few more places left for this probe to go at this point. Individuals up to the Jeff Sessions/Jared Kushner level have been interviewed. There are now 19 indictments and of those indictments, five individuals have plead guilty to criminal charges (Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Richard Pinedo and Alex van der Zwaan).
What’s left to do/decide?
- Trump has yet to acquiesce to an interview. He may yet be subpoenaed by Robert Mueller.
- Who may yet be charged? Jared Kushner? Donald Trump, Jr.? Ivanka Trump? Jeff Sessions? Brad Parscale? Trump himself? Although Mike Pence has lawyered up, his legal exposure at this moment seems minimal.
- What’s Mueller’s endgame/objective? There’s clearly a game plan that we don’t know about, but it is known that there is a working theory to the case. How will everything play out? Do they have contingency plans for a desperate Trump?
At any rate, today was a victory for justice and against public corruption. May the truth continue to prevail.