UPDATE: Paul Manafort responds to Gates' guilty plea

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WASHINGTON (AP) — 3:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is maintaining his innocence after his longtime business associate pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Paul Manafort says in a statement that the plea by Rick Gates on Friday does not change his commitment to defend himself against what he calls "untrue piled up charges." Manafort says he had "hoped and expected" that Gates would have "the strength" to continue to trial. He says Gates chose to plead guilty for "reasons yet to surface."

Gates has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and false statements charges in the special counsel's Russia investigation.

The plea is a strong indication that Gates is planning to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as it continues to probe the Trump campaign, Russian election interference and Manafort.

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2:55 p.m.

A former top adviser to President Donald Trump's election campaign has formally pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and false statements charges in the special counsel's Russia investigation.

The plea by Rick Gates is a strong indication that he is planning to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as it continues to probe the Trump campaign, Russian election interference and Gates' longtime business associate, Paul Manafort.

The 45-year-old Gates made the plea at the federal courthouse in Washington. It comes a day after Gates and Manafort were indicted in Virginia on new charges of tax evasion and bank fraud. Manafort, who is Trump's former campaign chairman, has said he is innocent.

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2 p.m.

Rick Gates, a former senior adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign, has arrived at a federal courthouse in Washington ahead of an expected guilty plea.

A court filing shows Gates has agreed to plea to charges accusing him of conspiring against the U.S. government related to fraud and unregistered foreign lobbying as well as lying to federal authorities.

The plea could indicate he is planning to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Gates' scheduled guilty plea comes a day after a federal grand jury in Virginia returned an indictment against him and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort accusing them of tax evasion and bank fraud.

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12:30 p.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed two charges in advance of a scheduled guilty plea by a former top adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign.

Rick Gates is set to appear at 2 p.m. Friday at the federal courthouse in Washington for a plea agreement hearing. A court filing shows Gates has agreed to plea to charges accusing him of conspiring against the U.S. government related to fraud and unregistered foreign lobbying as well as lying to federal authorities.

The plea could indicate he is planning to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Gates' scheduled guilty plea comes a day after a federal grand jury in Virginia returned an indictment against him and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort accusing them of tax evasion and bank fraud.

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11:05 a.m.

A former top adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign is expected to plead guilty in the special counsel's Russia probe, according to a person familiar with the decision said Friday.

The decision by Rick Gates could indicate he is planning to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The person said Gates, a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, could enter the plea as early as Friday. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations, said Gates had informed family and friends in a letter about his decision.

It would mark the fifth publicly known guilty plea in the special counsel probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign. A spokesman for Mueller did not respond to requests for comment.

The Gates plea would come a day after a federal grand jury in Virginia returned a 32-count indictment against him and Manafort accusing them of tax evasion and bank fraud. It was the second round of charges against the two men.

The plea also comes quickly on the heels of a stunning indictment last week that laid out a broad operation of election meddling by Russia, which began in 2014, and employed fake social media accounts and on-the-ground politicking to promote the campaign of Donald Trump, disparage Hillary Clinton and sow division and discord widely among the U.S. electorate.

Gates initially pleaded not guilty and has been facing up to 12.5 years in jail — based on a 12-count indictment handed up in October accusing him and Manafort of acting as unregistered foreign agents and conspiring to launder millions of dollars they earned while working on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

His guilty plea will almost certainly reduce the prison sentence he could have faced if convicted at trial of all counts.

A sealed charge in the case this week as well as closed-door discussions in recent weeks had brought speculation that a plea deal for Gates or some other development might be near. Gates' lawyers had filed a motion this month indicating that they had reached "irreconcilable differences" with their client. His new lawyer, veteran Washington white-collar attorney Thomas Green, formally took over Thursday.

Green did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Green, a high-powered defense attorney, won a plea deal for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert after he was charged with concealing nearly $1 million of $1.7 million in secret payments to hide allegations of sexual abuse.

As he was kept on house arrest, Gates frequently pleaded with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for leniency to attend sporting events with his four children.

If Gates agrees to become a cooperating witness as part of a plea deal, he could give Mueller a closer look into Manafort's years of political consulting work in Ukraine, as well as other events that have sparked the interest of federal investigators.

Gates had access at the highest levels of the campaign at the same time that Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner met with a team of Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. He was also in the top ranks of the campaign when then-Sen. Jeff Sessions held a pair of undisclosed meetings with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

For a few months in 2016, Gates was indispensable to Trump, leading the ground effort to help Trump win the Republican nomination and flying from state to state to secure Republican delegates in a scramble that lasted all the way until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

But his power and influence waned once Trump fired Manafort in August 2016 after The Associated Press disclosed how Gates and Manafort covertly directed a Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

Gates survived his mentor's ouster and worked through the election on Trump's inaugural committee — but among Trump aides he earned the nickname "the walking dead." Gates also worked briefly with the outside political groups supporting Trump's agenda, America First Policies and America First Action, but was pushed out of that job last year.

Gates was working for Tom Barrack, a close friend of Trump's, when he was indicted last October.
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12:10 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed additional criminal charges against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman and his business associate.

The Thursday filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing Paul Manafort, who managed Trump's campaign for several months in 2016, and longtime associate Rick Gates. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial.

The two men were initially charged in a 12-count indictment in October that accused them of a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. Manafort and Gates, who also worked on Trump's campaign, both pleaded not guilty after that indictment.



 
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