For some time, it’s been clear that something was going on behind the scenes concerning the indictment of Rick Gates. Gates split with his defense team two weeks ago. The reasons for that attorney-client divorce were filed under seal, but the suspicion was there from the beginning that Gates had decided to make a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now that deal seems to be almost a certainty.
Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.
Any deal would seem to require that Gates hand over long-time partner Paul Manafort’s head on a plate. But while Gates is often referred to simply as “Manafort’s protege” in descriptions of their relationship, it’s worth noting that Gates was actually a member of Donald Trump’s campaign staff much longer than Manafort. The two men came in at the same time, but Gates stuck around after Manafort’s departure, acting as the go-between for the Trump campaign and the RNC. He may be one of the few people able to tell a continuous story from Papadopoulos, right up to “I love Wikileaks.” Gates would also be able to speak to how much information was passed from the Trump campaign to other Republican officials.
There’s one other thing that absolutely has to be included in any deal with Rick Gates.
A number of lines in the robustly applauded speech delivered by Melania Trump at the Republican national convention on Monday night appear to have been lifted verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic convention. … A campaign source suggested to the Guardian that the blame lay with Rick Gates, a longtime aide to top Trump strategist Paul Manafort.
Rick Gates is the guy who took the blame for Melania’s plagiarized speech, and America deserves to know the truth—if only because it would be hilarious.
Once a plea deal is in place, Gates would become the third known cooperator in Mueller’s sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It would also increase the pressure to cooperate on Gates’ co-defendant Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who has pleaded not guilty to Mueller’s indictment and is preparing for a trial on alleged financial crimes unrelated to the campaign.
Honestly, it would be a shame to give any sort of deal to Paul Manafort. Yes, he may have critical information about the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia, and that could be worth a lot. But Manafort’s decades of working with foreign despots and selling out the country to Russian oligarchs while acting as everyone’s favorite RNC organizer, deserves to be laid out and prosecuted in detail, at length, and with serious consequences. Manafort isn’t just in “the swamp,” he’s Swamp Thing.
Both George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn got deals that amounted to getting off with a slap on the wrist. In Flynn’s case, we’ve yet to see what he had to offer in exchange for the special counsel ignoring potential charges up to and including attempted kidnapping. The fact that we don’t know what Flynn said is the biggest invisible sword dangling over Trump’s head.
For Gates, it would seem hard to find a circumstance worth making all his indictments go away. But he may have more to say about both Manafort and Trump than either understands. After all, he was just “Manafort’s protege,” and that made it easy to forget he was always around.
Sign up for the Trump Impeachment newsletter.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.