Rick Gates, 46, met Paul Manafort early in his career when he was an intern at the powerful DC lobbying firm of Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.
Business Insider reports that the firm did some interesting work around the world, in addition to helping elect Senators such as Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms, and Arlen Specter.
The firm worked to help boost the image of dictators and strongmen around the world, including Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Russian-aligned former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Paul Manafort left the firm the same year Gates joined, but they joined forces once again in 2006 at a new consulting firm, Davis Manafort. Business Insider describes how Rick Gates soon became an essential member of the Davis Manafort team and ultimately would set himself up to be a person of consequence in the Russia investigation years later.
Two years later, Gates took over the company’s affairs in Eastern Europe, flying to London, Paris, and Moscow, meeting with potential business partners, developing deals, and negotiating contracts, according to The New York Times. His trips to Russia included meeting with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch linked to organized crime who is an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Gates, as Manafort’s right-hand-man, was involved in working for Deripaska in rebranding the pro-Russia Ukrainian candidate Viktor Yanukovych, just one strongman anti-democracy candidate they helped. Rick Gates was also involved in leveraging the political power the team had been given by Deripaska into business opportunities. He was named in the lawsuit Deripaska brought against Manafort, Gates, Kilimnik and four others when Pericles, the investment company Manafort had founded and Deripaska had invested $18.9 million in, failed. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s favorite industrialist“, sued to recoup his losses. The court filing from 2014 states, “It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.”
When Manafort was successful in gaining a foothold in then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, Rick Gates was brought on as well. After Paul became campaign manager, in the spring of 2016, Gates was eventually made deputy campaign manager. Gates was head of campaign operations at the 2016 Republican National Convention, while Manafort was wrangling delegates. Rick Gates, according to a campaign source that spoke to The Guardian, was the one who approved and signed off on Melania’s convention speech that was immediately scrutinized for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech.
In August, when Paul Manafort was ousted from the campaign over accusations of secret payments from the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine, Gates stayed with the campaign. After Donald Trump was elected, Gates was the second in command of the Presidential Inauguration Committee. He went on to America First Policies, with Brad Parscale and other Trump staffers. He was ousted from the organization in March of 2017, after continued association with Manafort’s troubles, CNN reported at the time.
By October 2017, Gates was squarely in the middle of the Russia investigation and was indicted, along with Manafort on a range of charges. They were both charged with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, 7 counts of failure to report foreign bank accounts, being unregistered agents of a foreign principal, and 2 counts of making false statements. Gates allegedly laundered $3 million and helped Manafort launder $30 million.
Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges. But in February 2018, after 32 additional charges were filed against the pair, Gates pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of making false statements in exchange for cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Politico reported that Gates’ cooperation almost certainly means he will deliver his old boss Manafort to Mueller, but he also has the inside information that could allow him to turn on President Trump.
“He saw everything,” said a Republican consultant who worked with Gates during the campaign. The consultant called Gates one of the “top five” insiders whom Mueller could have tapped as a cooperative government witness. One defense attorney in the case said Gates’ plea has triggered palpable alarm in Trump world.
Manafort may have struck a larger public profile, but Gates spent more time in Trump’s orbit. Manafort left the Trump campaign under a cloud of scandal in mid-August 2016. Gates, his right-hand man, stayed on through the election before assisting the Trump inauguration and Trump’s early presidency.
Worst of all for the White House, Gates lacks hard-wired loyalty. He is not family, like Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Nor is he among true Trump believers like Corey Lewandowski and Brad Parscale.
While Rick Gates’ complete role in the Russia investigation remains to be seen, and the charges he has plead guilty on are not directly involved in accusations of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia, it is clear that Gates is at the center of the probe and will play a critical part when Mueller’s findings are finally shared with the public.
2016 Republican National Convention