One of the best associates of special advocate Robert Mueller did not cooperate with the government.
Rick Gates, Paul Manafort's long-time right-hand man, who has played a leading role in the Trump campaign and inauguration, is not yet ready for the award, the team said. Mueller said Friday – because Gates "continues to cooperate in several ongoing investigations."
Gates entered into an advocacy agreement with the Mueller team in February 2018 and testified against Manafort at his trial in August 2018.
As always, what is terribly uncertain is what happens in Mueller's own investigation. For weeks, rumors have been circulating in Washington that the special council is about to finish its work – but no Mueller report has yet been released.
However, Gates' continued cooperation does not necessarily tell us anything about the status of the special advice investigation, as it does not only cooperate with Mueller.
There would be at least two known investigations, besides Mueller's, with which Gates would cooperate: a trump money investigation of Trump's inauguration and a survey of the unregistered work of lobbyists and lawyers for the Ukraine.
Since these two surveys seem to remain active, it makes perfect sense that Gates is not yet ready for the trouble. Gates could also help with other investigations that we do not know about.
Who is Rick Gates?
Basically, Gates is the protégé and right hand man of Paul Manafort, who has been at his side during his last decade of lobbying and working abroad before accompanying him in the Trump campaign.
Gates is two decades younger than Manafort and joined his company in 2006, eventually managing much of his portfolio in Eastern Europe and often working in Kiev. Gates was deeply involved in Manafort's work for Viktor Yanukovych, then president of Ukraine, and in the network of accounts abroad that Manafort used to launder money.
So when Trump brought Manafort to his presidential campaign in March 2016, Gates also came. It's unclear whether Gates had a personal relationship with Trump, but he was Manafort's main assistant during the months when Manafort was directing the show. Even after the dismissal of his boss in August 2016, Gates remained in the vicinity, remaining in the election campaign until the general election.
After Trump won, Gates got another plum job. Billard real estate investor Tom Barrack, who is in charge of planning Trump's inauguration, turned to Gates as a deputy head. (Barrack knew Manafort since the 1970s and helped convince Trump to get him involved in the campaign.)
According to a report published in November 2016 by Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff, Gates has been instrumental in raising funds and planning the inauguration. Isikoff quoted a source describing Gates as "ghost" president of Barrack's inauguration and "deputy chief". Then, in 2017, Barrack gave Gates a job in his investment company Colony Capital.
Things took a turn for Gates at the end of October 2017, when special advocate Robert Mueller indicted him as well as Manafort. The charges were undisclosed financial lobbying crimes related to the past work of the two Ukrainians in Ukraine, and Mr. Gates, then 45, was at risk of at least ten years in prison. Another indictment for tax evasion and bank fraud in February 2018 further aggravated the situation.
So Gates returned. On February 23, 2018, he pleaded guilty to a small number of charges and pledged to cooperate with the government.
What are the investigations conducted by Rick Gates?
Gates' most visible cooperation was in providing evidence against Manafort and testifying against his former boss at his trial (in which Gates admitted to embezzling funds and pursuing an extramarital affair). Mr. Gates also provided Mueller with information about his boss's contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a partner who, according to the US government, is linked to Russian intelligence services – a topic that, according to Mueller's team, go to the "heart" of their investigation.
All the information that Gates provided to Mueller about the links of the Trump campaign with Russia is unclear. It is unclear whether Gates primarily provided information on Manafort on this front, or whether he also had important information about other campaign participants.
But Gates has not only cooperated with Mueller, the special advocate has made it clear during court filings over the last few months. "The accused Gates continues to cooperate in several ongoing investigations," Mueller wrote last November (and again on Friday). What could they be?
One of the consequences of the Manafort case was whether other lobbyists and lawyers who had worked with Manafort and Gates concerning Ukraine should have been registered as foreign agents. Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, Republican lobbyist Vin Weber and former White House lawyer Greg Craig have all been examined. According to CNN, Mueller referred these cases to the US District Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
Secondly, it has become clear in recent months that Trump's investiture is also being investigated for various potential crimes related to his donors and his expenses. Gates' high-level role in planning the inaugural planning committee makes him a potentially valuable collaborator, although his specific role in this investigation is unclear.
The general picture is that it seems that Gates has so far been Mueller's featured co-operator. Unlike Michael Cohen, he agreed to cooperate openly. Unlike Michael Flynn, the government clearly wants more of it. Unlike Paul Manafort, his cooperation has not failed in the face of accusations of lies. Unlike George Papadopoulos, he did not speak to the media and did not urge the special advocate to stop contact with him. And although Mueller is about to conclude, Gates' cooperation is clearly not over.
For more information on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox's Guide to the Trump-Russia Survey.