Rick Gates is not the household name that his former partner and Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort has become—that is, unless you’re a denizen of the White House. Gates is apparently getting plenty of mentions in the West Wing as Donald Trump and his associates fret over how much damage he can do to Team Trump as a cooperating witness in the Russia probe. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn writes:
“He saw everything,” said a Republican consultant who worked with Gates during the campaign. The consultant called Gates one of the “top five” insiders whom Mueller could have tapped as a cooperative government witness. One defense attorney in the case said Gates’ plea has triggered palpable alarm in Trump world.
Manafort may have struck a larger public profile, but Gates spent more time in Trump’s orbit. Manafort left the Trump campaign under a cloud of scandal in mid-August 2016. Gates, his right-hand man, stayed on through the election before assisting the Trump inauguration and Trump’s early presidency.
Worst of all for the White House, Gates lacks hard-wired loyalty. He is not family, like Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Nor is he among true Trump believers like Corey Lewandowski and Brad Parscale.
Oh, Gates has loyalty alright—to minimizing his sentence and watching his kids grow up. Gates poses two serious problems for Team Trump in relation to Manafort: 1) he might have enough dirt on his former partner to give Mueller the leverage needed to flip Manafort; 2) Gates outlasted the campaign and transitioned to the White House, where he witnessed things firsthand that Manafort did not. In that sense, he’s double trouble—potentially shining more sunlight on both the campaign and the early days of the Trump White House.
Gates, who was indicted with Manafort last October for conspiracy regarding their political work in Ukraine, pleaded guilty to two felony charges last month.