Trump Campaign Aide Rick Gates Pleads Guilty in Russian Interference Probe

Friday, Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investors, in a deal that called for Gates to assist authorities with their ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. That election saw Trump lose the popular vote and ultimately win the Electoral College vote to become the 45th President of the United States. Last week, Trump blamed the inquiry, and the FBI’s focus on his alleged collusion with Russia, for the agency's inability to prevent a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.

Gates was initially indicted in October 2017 and pleaded not guilty. However, Friday found Gates changing course and presumably offering to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence. Gates is currently facing up to six years in prison. As it relates to Trump, Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times outlined how Gates’ decision may be a move to indict one of his superiors, and ultimately the big orange nucleus himself.

“The plea agreement is further evidence that the Trump campaign attracted a cast of advisors who overstepped legal and ethical boundaries,” Haberman and Mazzetti wrote. “Mr. Gates was present for the most significant periods of the campaign, as Mr. Trump began forging policy positions and his digital cooperation engaged with millions of voters on social media platforms such as Facebook.”

Gates admitted to previously lying to prosecutors while under oath, about a 2013 meeting Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had with a person described as a “pro-Russian member of Congress.” The 37-page court filing made public when Gates and Manafort were both indicted in October, accused Gates of pocketing tens of millions of dollars as a result of lobbying efforts in the Ukraine. The documents also accuse Gates and Manafort of laundering some $30 million in money stashed in offshore accounts.

None of this directly answers the central question of if Trump coordinated with the Russian government to disrupt the 2016 Presidential Election, but it connects several dots. Gates is now the fifth person to plead guilty as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Manafort maintains his innocence, but many political commentators expect Gates to spill some proverbial tea on his former boss, and possibly implicate Trump.

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Donald Trump Defends Putin Amid Election Probe: ‘He Did Not Meddle’

While Special counsel Robert Mueller and a congressional committee continue to investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election on Donald Trump’s behalf, the President is repeating a familiar refrain. He’s defending his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Trump and Putin’s latest meeting was reportedly limited to the two leaders sharing some informal talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Vietnam.

“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told a group of reporters while in Vietnam Saturday. “You can only ask him so many times … He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”

In this case, the “they” Trump is referring to would be the FBI and the CIA and both agencies collective assessment that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election in order to help Trump win. The former reality show host lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but still won the 304 Electoral College votes necessary to become the 45th President. While Trump tours Asia, probes are being conducted on possible collusion between various Trump associates and Russian operatives.

The topic of Trump and Putin’s ongoing bromance came up after the Kremlin released an official statement saying the two presidents “confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS (the Islamic State) in Syria.”

According to David Jackson of USA Today, when pressed further about allegations of Putin influencing the election, Trump responded by saying, “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him. I would rather have him get out of Syria.”

After dropping that diplomatic gem, Trump was summarily flamed on Twitter.

Your Saturday morning headline essentially boils down to the man who penned The Art of the Deal, struggling to make an actual deal with someone who allegedly helped him rig an election he barely won. Putin has been accused of war crimes including the alleged 1999 Russian apartment bombings that ignited the Second Chechen War. So if you add in the layer of Putin potentially helping Trump diffuse the Syrian conflict, you end up with a storyline that sounds as if it were copied and pasted from The Onion.

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