Despite the insanity going on this week, the Mueller probe steadily continues on as major players are cutting deals to turn state's evidence against the Tangerine Tyrant. First up, Paul Manafort's partner in crime, Rick Gates, is definitely looking for a plea bargain deal with Mueller's team.
Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's office, indicating he's poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case.
Gates has already spoken to Mueller's team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He's had what criminal lawyers call a "Queen for a Day" interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors' team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.
Gates' cooperation could be another building block for Mueller in a possible case against President Donald Trump or key members of his team.
Once a plea deal is in place, Gates would become the third known cooperator in Mueller's sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It would also increase the pressure to cooperate on Gates' co-defendant Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, who has pleaded not guilty to Mueller's indictment and is preparing for a trial on alleged financial crimes unrelated to the campaign. Gates pleaded not guilty on October 30 alongside Manafort.
"Nobody (who's charged) goes in to provide incriminating information to the government unless it's part of plea negotiations," said a criminal defense attorney who represents a witness in the case. In a Queen for a Day interview, a defendant can typically admit to crimes with little additional consequences, unless he or she lies.
Sure, Gates could be lying, but I bet Mueller's team has enough corroborating evidence to know precisely what they are looking for, and what Gates can really offer them. If Gates is flipping on Paul Manafort, who ran Trump's entire campaign and was neck deep in Russian collusion, then the goal is clearly to pressure Manafort into singing on The Donald.
Meanwhile, former Trump dirty deeds done dirt cheap man Steve Bannon continued to belt out his own hit parade to Mueller and his team this week.
Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.
Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as other issues that have arisen around the probe.
Bannon left his job as a senior White House adviser in August and returned to a leadership role at Breitbart, the right-wing news site based out of Washington. But he fell out of favor with the site’s financial backers, the Mercer family, after criticizing the president and his family in "Fire and Fury,”a book about the Trump administration published earlier this year by author Michael Wolff.
You don't spend 20 hours meeting with someone to talk about nothing with federal prosecutors. He's singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, guys. Oh, and we also know Bannon is finally talking to the House Intelligence Committee, too.
After a more than four-week stalemate, Bannon also returned to Capitol Hill Thursday to resume his interview with the House Intelligence Committee, which was halted when he earlier refused to answer key questions in the Russia probe.
He left today after four hours, answering little more than the two dozen questions that the White House had negotiated with the House’s lead counsel.
The committee had issued a subpoena in their initial Jan. 16 interview when Bannon would not address issues that arose during his time on the Trump transition team, in the White House and after he left his top position there. The subpoena deadline was postponed three times as House lawyers negotiated with the White House over what Bannon would be willing to discuss without the White House invoking executive privilege to bar the testimony.
Lawmakers indicated Thursday that his continued non-cooperation might require the committee to take the next step and consider beginning the process of holding Bannon in contempt of Congress.
Guess Bannon is playing ball now after being thrown under the bus twice by Trump, huh?
Events in the last few weeks have pushed the Mueller probe out of the spotlight in February, to the point where it's given Trump a little bit of breathing room in the polls (he's actually above 40% approval for once.) But Mueller and his team are still very much on the case.
And Trump knows it.