Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, admitted he lied to investigators in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe about a meeting that took place on March 19, 2013, with lobbyist Paul Manafort and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., The Hill reported Friday.
Gates pled guilty earlier Friday to helping Manafort “in a variety of criminal schemes” in an effort to hide millions in lobbying work in Ukraine from the U.S. government.
Gates admitted he lied on Feb. 1, even as he was attempting to discuss a plea bargain with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. That same day, Gates’ previous lawyers asked to withdraw from the case.
A statement of offense was attached to Gates’ plea agreement that stated he had made a false statement about his 2013 meeting with Rohrabacher and Manafort, who worked as a campaign aide to the president during his 2016 run for office. Gates initially told investigators the country’s politics were not discussed during the meeting.
Manafort, who continued to maintain his innocence, issued a statement on Friday where he expressed disappointment over Gates’ decision to enter a guilty plea.
“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,” Manafort wrote.
Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs stated Friday the 2013 meeting mostly involved politics and the subject of Ukraine was mentioned “in passing.”
“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics. The subject of Ukraine came up in passing,” Grubbs said.
“It is no secret that Manafort represented [former Ukraine president] Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine. We may only speculate that Manafort needed to report back to his client that Ukraine was discussed,” he added.
Gates in a letter on Friday said he pled guilty for the sake of his family and due to the “circus-like atmosphere” a trial would bring.
“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates wrote. “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.”
Gates is the third former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in the Russia probe. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to investigators last year.