Who is Rick Gates? Paul Manafort associate to plead guilty

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Another Donald Trump campaign official is cooperating with Robert Mueller.

A former adviser to the Trump campaign is expected to plead guilty as part of a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to reports today.

Rick Gates was first indicted by Mueller in October, alongside former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Recent reports indicated that Gates was close to a plea deal, but a series of new charges filed yesterday against Manafort and Gates stirred speculation that the deal had fallen through. Now, Gates is reportedly ready to cooperate.

While Gates mostly avoided the public eye during the Trump campaign, he could be one of the most significant players in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.

This is what you need to know about Rick Gates:

Paul Manafort’s right-hand man

There may be no one in the world in a better position than Gates to offer the Mueller team information to raise pressure on Paul Manafort, who is still expected to fight the charges against him. The pair met while Gates was an intern for the D.C. consulting firm Black, Manafort. The firm, which originally worked for the 1980 Reagan presidential campaign, had clients all over the world by the time Gates was invited to work for them full-time. Those clients included a range of unsavory characters including Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and African dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

When Manafort left the firm in 2006 to open an office in Ukraine, Gates joined him. In Ukraine, Manafort worked for pro-Putin president Viktor Yanukovych until the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that forced him into exile in Russia. Gates was there alongside Manafort the whole time, apparently using Gates as a bookkeeper to falsify financial reports to launder millions of dollars on behalf of his boss, according to the indictments against the two men.

Russian dealings

Gates was also involved in Manafort’s attempt to strike a multi-million dollar business deal with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. a Russian billionaire known for his close relationship to Vladimir Putin. The deal fell through, leaving Manafort on the hook for millions according to a lawsuit filed by Deripaska in the Cayman Islands. That deal may be of particular interest to the Muller investigation, since Manafort is believed to have offered Deripaska personal briefings on the Trump campaign based on emails obtained by The Washington Post. “How do we use to get whole?” Manafort asked in one email touting his new position in the campaign — implying that he may have intended to use his role within the Trump campaign to erase the debt from their broken deal.

How much Gates would know about the possible arrangement is unclear, but as Manafort’s financial fixer, it seems likely he would have insight into his boss’s attempt to erase debt from a deal they sought together.

Trump campaign deputy

Rick Gates’ close relationship with Manafort appears to be the most significant aspect of his potential plea deal with Mueller. But it is worth remembering that despite keeping a low-profile publicly, Gates also had a powerful role in the Trump campaign. He was hired shortly after Manafort was brought on to run the campaign and was tasked with handling the campaign’s day-to-day work behind-the-scenes while Manafort dealt with the press.

After being forced out of the campaign alongside Manafort, he joined the Republican National Committee to work in fundraising. His fundraising efforts during his short time there reportedly focused on the Trump Inaugural Committee which raised millions more dollars than were apparently spent on the actual inauguration.

The leftover cash was expected to be donated to charity. Instead, the surplus funds seemed to have disappeared. Over a year later, what happened to the money remains a mystery.

Family man

While under house arrest following the initial indictment, Gates sought to be released temporarily so that he could attend his kids’ sporting events. The episode is a reminder that despite his involvement in shadowy criminal politics across the world, Gates is also a father whose family now caught-up in one of the biggest criminal investigations in American political history.

“The consequence [of pleading guilty] is the public humiliation, which at this moment seems like a small price to pay for what our children would have to endure otherwise,” Gates wrote in a letter obtained by ABC News.

By taking a deal, he stands to end the circus around his family and also reduce his potential jail time. Without a deal, Gates could face decades in prison, leaving him mostly absent from his children’s lives.