Feb 23

The Russian Connection: Two Jurisdictions

It was announced earlier today that former Trump advisor Rick Gates will plead guilty today and cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. The 32 new fraud charges that were brought against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Gates yesterday in Virginia may have been the tipping point for Gates. NBC News is reporting that Gates will plea to lying to the FBI and conspiracy against the US which each carry a five year prison term. If he had been found guilty to the original charges, Gates would be facing decades in prison.

The 32 new charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and a Russian intelligence operation to skew the 2016 presidential election. [..]

The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.

After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.

The charges against Gates and Manafort are not related to campaign work. Instead, the indictment says, they laundered tens of millions of dollars in lobbying payments through a web of U.S. companies and banks. Earlier this week, Alex van der Zwaan, a former attorney for the blue-chip firm Skadden Arps who is the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s team about his contacts with Gates.

Gates had been expected to take a plea last week but backed away. The original indictment was filed in Washington DC. The new charges were filed in the Commonwealth of Virginia which would mean the defendants will face trials in two jurisdictions. That may be the reason Gates has decided to throw in the towel.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explains the new charges and why they were filed in Virginia and not DC and the connection to the Trump campaign

Former US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg joins Rachel to discuss the new indictment and why the indictment came from a different grand jury than the first indictment.

Gates will appear before a DC federal judge at 2 PM ET to enter his plea.