Ok, so Paul Manafort and protégé Rick Gates are officially the first casualties of the Mueller probe.
Earlier Monday, both were told to surrender to federal authorities and videos immediately surfaced of Manafort, dressed in one of his expensive suits, driving past a throng of photographers and cameramen in a black SUV on the way from his Alexandria, Virginia home to far less hospitable environs. For his part, Gates is expected to surrender today as well.
Manafort faces charges for tax crimes and other offenses. Specifically, he and Gates have been indicted on 12 counts:
- conspiracy against the United States
- conspiracy to launder money
- unregistered agent of a foreign principal
- false and misleading FARA statements
- false statements
- and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
You can read the full indictment embedded at the end of this post.
One thing that’s important to note here is that Gates remained on the Trump campaign after Manafort’s ouster last year. “Mr. Gates survived Mr. Manafort’s purge last summer amid allegations that his mentor had taken millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, retaining a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee,” a New York Times piece from June reads.
As we noted earlier today, his name can be found on documents tied to companies that Manafort’s firm established in Cyprus in order to receive payments from Eastern European politicians.
Of course Cyprus is a favorite tax shelter for Russian oligarchs which is why a whole lot of people think this is laughably suspicious.
“During the pair’s heady days in Ukraine, it was Mr. Gates who flew to Moscow for meetings with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch,” The Times documented in the same June piece linked above.
Deripaska has close ties to Putin and was denied a U.S. visa on grounds he has connections to organized crime. Gates interacted with the Cypriot law firm that set up the shell companies which were designed to streamline business deals with Deripaska.
So you can see why this is so fucking suspect (figuratively and literally in this case). And of course all of this dates back to efforts to prop up that Kremlin-backed buffoon Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.
But here’s where it gets really funny. Via The Times again:
In the spring of 2016, when Mr. Trump found himself outmaneuvered in the arcane battle for Republican convention delegates, he turned to Mr. Manafort. Mr. Gates came along as his deputy — the man behind the man in charge. In a campaign known for its factionalism, Mr. Gates won over colleagues by managing the mundane but essential work of daily operations. He traveled often with Mr. Trump and forged relationships with Reince Priebus, the future chief of staff, and Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director.
“What made him valuable was, people trusted him, No. 1, and No. 2, he was effective,” said Richard F. Hohlt, a longtime Republican lobbyist who worked on Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee.
Those ties enabled Mr. Gates to outlast his mentor last summer, when Mr. Manafort was ousted. Mr. Gates moved to the Republican National Committee, helping iron out joint fund-raising agreements and other contracts with Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Mr. Gates was soon established in Mr. Trump’s circle. Before the first presidential debate, he glad-handed with Michael Flynn.
Here’s a picture that underscores the relationship (Gates on the left of Trump):
As you can see, this does not bode well for this administration.