Rick Gates was the former business assistant and deputy to controversial lobbyist Paul Manafort, who served as campaign chair for the Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign from June 20 2016 to Aug. 19, 2016. After Manafort resigned, Gates also served as campaign deputy under Steve Bannon. During his post as No. 2, Gates handled day-to-day activities and even took responsibility for the plagiarism in Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention.
On Oct. 27, 2017, both Gates and Manafort were charged in relation to their consulting work with pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians. In 2004, Manafort became an advisor to former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, a politician with strong ties to Vladimir Putin. The FBI reportedly began a criminal investigation into Manafort in 2014, which was before Donald Trump had announced his candidacy. Then in 2017, the twelve-count indictment charged the two associates with conspiracy against the United States, making false statements, money laundering, and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
On Oct. 30, 2017, Manafort and Gates surrendered to the FBI and pleaded not guilty at the time.
On Feb. 21, 2018, additional charges were filed against Gates and Manafort in District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Unlike previous indictments, the 32-count indictment was issued by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. There were 16 counts related to false individual income tax returns, seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy, and four counts of bank fraud.
In a surprising turn of events, Gates reached a plea deal with Robert Muller, Special Counsel of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, agreeing to testify against Manafort. On Feb. 23, 2018, Gates pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement and one count of conspiracy against the United States. According to federal guidelines, Gates could have faced sentence of 57 to 71 months, but these are only advisory and subject to discretion. On Feb. 27, 2018, Gates’ charges were withdrawn without prejudice.
On Feb. 28, 2018, Manafort entered a not guilty plea in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and maintained his innocence to the press.
During Manafort’s trial in August 2018, Gates became the government’s star witness. Gates testified that he and Manafort had orchestrated a complex offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme using offshore shell companies and foreign bank accounts and funnelled millions there from their consulting work in Ukraine. Gates admitted he’d hid the offshore accounts and his income from U.S. tax authorities by falsifying bank loan documents and disguising the income as loans. While on the stand, Gates admitted he’d embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and with that money funded several extramarital affairs. On Aug. 21, 2018, Manafort was convicted on eight out of the 18 counts against him. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 counts. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on the 10 remaining charges. The ruling was considered a major win for Mueller’s Special Counsel.
In October 2018, Gates former attorneys of the law firm of Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack sued the former lobbyist for $368,525.34 in unpaid legal fees.