Donald Trump’s former campaign official Rick Gates has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Gates made a plea deal and is now the third person on Trump’s campaign to work with former FBI chief Mueller.
Gates was former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s aide for ten years.
Prosecutors are now hoping to pressure Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, to give evidence about Trump’s campaign.
CNN reported in a hearing today Gates told a federal judge he understood his potential sentence depended on his cooperation with prosecutors concerning the charge ‘conspiracy to commit to defraud the United States and making false statements’.
In a letter to friends before the hearing Gates told his friends and family why he was pleading guilty after first promising to fight the charges.
He said: ‘The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much, I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.’
Paul Manafort said today in a statement: ‘Notwithstanding that Rick Gates plead 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.’
‘This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.’
Last week Mueller published a report detailing how Russia had tried to meddle in the 2016 election by inventing social media profiles, meetings and even entire social media groups.