- Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, criticized his ex-business partner Rick Gates for not having the strength to defend himself against charges leveled by special counsel Robert Mueller.
- On Friday, Gates pleaded guilty to two counts related to conspiracy against the US and lying to federal investigators.
- Manafort and Gates may be at odds now, but the two men used to be close business partners.
Paul Manafort, the ex-chairman of the Trump campaign, on Friday criticized his former associate Rick Gates for pleading guilty and flipping in the Russia investigation.
“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort said in a statement obtained by Business Insider. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”
Gates’s guilty plea suggests that he will testify against Manafort in court, thereby putting significant pressure on Manafort and his legal defense team as they fight over dozens of charges, including counts related to money laundering, conspiracy against the US, and failure to register as foreign agent.
Mueller’s team has been wrangling with Gates in recent weeks over the terms of a plea deal that would likely significantly reduce a potential prison sentence for Gates in exchange for his cooperation in the ongoing Russia investigation.
Gates is the fourth person known to be cooperating with Mueller, in addition to early campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former national-security adviser Michael Flynn, and California businessman Richard Pinedo.
Manafort’s comments towards Gates appear to reflect the former business partners’ deteriorating relationship.
It wasn’t always so tense. The two men have known each other for more than three decades, dating back to their time working together at the powerful DC lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.
In 2006, Manafort and Gates started working closer together at a new consulting company called Davis Manafort. For nearly a decade, they worked as political consultants in Ukraine, specifically for the country’s pro-Russia Party of Regions and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Mueller’s indictments against Manafort and Gates stem from their financial dealings in Ukraine during this period.
In 2016, Trump hired Manafort to lead his presidential campaign. Gates was brought on as Manafort’s “right-hand man.”
In August of that year, Manafort left the Trump campaign as pressure mounted over his foreign business dealings, but Gates stayed on and remained an influential Trump booster with wide-ranging connections to powerful leaders and businessmen around the world.