US & Canada

Trump-Russia: Ex-campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty

Rick Gates Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rick Gates said he had "had a change of heart" after his initial not-guilty plea

US President Donald Trump's former deputy campaign manager has admitted charges of conspiracy and lying to investigators in a plea deal.

Rick Gates pledged to co-operate in "any and all matters" with the US special counsel's inquiry into alleged Russian political meddling in the US.

Mr Gates, 45, had been indicted on more serious criminal counts, including bank fraud and money laundering.

Ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was hit with new charges on Friday.

There are no allegations that either man colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, which is the main thrust of the Department of Justice investigation.

What happened in court?

On Friday, Mr Gates admitted to lying to the FBI about a March 2013 meeting in Washington with a US lawmaker while Mr Manafort was present.

Mr Gates falsely claimed Ukraine was not discussed, according to the indictment.

Sentencing guidelines for him suggest a prison term of between 57 and 71 months. He could have been locked up for decades under the more serious charges.

Special counsel Robert Mueller could petition the court for a reduced sentence depending on how much Mr Gates co-operates.

Mr Gates filed a motion requesting permission to take his children to Massachusetts during their spring break from school.

"The purpose of this trip is for Mr Gates to show his children around the Boston area to learn about American history in general, and the Revolutionary War in particular," his motion requests.

What are the latest Manafort charges?

On Friday afternoon, Mr Mueller piled the pressure on Mr Manafort by filing a third indictment against him.

He accused Mr Manafort of secretly hiring former senior European politicians to lobby in the US for positions favourable to Ukraine.

The ex-politicians, dubbed the Hapsburg Group, were allegedly paid from an offshore account for their lobbying efforts.

The indictment says the group was led by a former European chancellor, identified in the charge sheet only as Foreign Politician A.

These charges and Mr Gates' plea deal come a day after both men were indicted on 32 additional criminal counts.

What do Gates and Manafort say?

Mr Manafort - who resigned as Trump campaign chairman in August 2016 after five months amid questions over his business dealings - maintains his innocence.

"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence," he said in a statement on Friday.

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Media captionManafort's indictment: Where did all the money go?

"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."

Mr Manafort has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, beginning with Gerald Ford's in 1976.

In a letter to family and friends, Mr Gates said he had "had a change of heart" after his initial not-guilty plea, according to ABC News.

He reportedly said he was ready to accept "public humiliation" to avoid inflicting prolonged pain on his children.

"The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much," he reportedly wrote.

"I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process."

What were the charges?

Mr Mueller's team alleged in a 32-count indictment on Thursday that Mr Gates and Mr Manafort concealed more than $30m of income from US tax authorities.

Mr Gates was accused of hiding more than $3m of income and using the cash to pay for his mortgage, children's tuition and re-decorating his Virginia home.

The court filing charged the pair with a scheme to defraud the US by making false representations to banks and other financial institutions between 2008-17.

Both men pleaded not guilty in October when they were first indicted on charges of laundering $75m through an offshore account.

They were also accused of illegally lobbying for a foreign government, Ukraine, without first registering in that capacity with the US government.

How many people has Mueller charged?

Nineteen people - including Mr Manafort and Mr Gates - have been indicted by the special counsel.

Michael Flynn, a former US national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over meetings he had with the Russian Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.

Last week, 13 Russians were charged with tampering in the 2016 US election and a California man, Richard Pinedo, admitted an identity theft charge.

This week a London-based lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in court to making false statements when questioned about his work for Ukraine's Ministry of Justice.

Mr Trump has said there was no collusion. Moscow has rejected US intelligence claims of interference.

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