Yesterday's guilty plea from former Trump regime aide Rick Gates has led to some new developments in the Mueller probe and some familiar names now coming up in connection with Gates, his business partner and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and their years' worth of lobbying violations, international money laundering and bank fraud.
First up, Mueller leveled new charges against Manafort as a direct result of Gates's guilty plea.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman of secretly paying former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine.
The new allegation against Paul Manafort comes in a newly unsealed indictment made public Friday. The indictment followed a guilty plea by Manafort’s longtime business associate, Rick Gates.
The indictment accuses Manafort of paying the former politicians, informally known as the “Hapsburg group,” to appear to be “independent” analysts when in fact they were paid lobbyists. Some of the covert lobbying took place in the U.S.
The indictment says the group was managed by a former European chancellor. Court papers accuse Manafort of using offshore accounts to pay the group more than 2 million euros.
We know that Manafort and Donald Trump have known each other and have worked together for decades, and that both have always been interested in Russian and European money...the untraceable, laundered kind. Manafort has long been a deal-maker and fixer, that's why Trump hired him to run his campaign. If anyone could have arranged a little "help" from Moscow, whether it was money or influence operations, it's Manafort. Gates has long been Manafort's partner in crime on the business side and he was welcomed into the Trump campaign as a result.
But there's another name that has come up as a result of Gates's plea, and that's a particular California Republican congressman who has deep ties to Putin and Russia.
Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates just admitted to lying to U.S. investigators about a March 19, 2013, meeting between his boss, Paul Manafort, and an unidentified U.S. congressman. Public filings show a meeting that day between Manafort and Dana Rohrabacher, a Russia-friendly Republican congressman from California.
You'd better believe Rohrabacher is squarely in Mueller's sights, too.
Details of a March 19, 2013, meeting surfaced last year in supplemental filings from DMP International, Manafort’s firm, and Mercury Public Affairs, whose partner, Vin Weber, also participated in the 2013 meeting.
Weber and a representative for him didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lobbying that Gates and Manafort are accused of hiding included work on behalf of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Russia.
After the guilty plea on Friday, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, who has sought better relations with Russia, said: “As the congressman has acknowledged before, the meeting was a dinner with two longtime acquaintances –- Manafort and Weber –- from back in his White House and early congressional days.”
“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics,” the spokesman said. “The subject of Ukraine came up in passing. It is no secret that Manafort represented Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine.”
Now, there's no reason on the surface for Gates to lie about meeting Rohrabacher for dinner five years ago, but Mueller clearly knew what happened at that meeting, well enough to bring charges against Gates, and well enough for Gates to plead guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI.
The larger story remains that Gates is 100% cooperating with Mueller, and everyone knows it.