Trump campaign aide Richard Gates ‘flips’ and pleads guilty in Russia investigation
A former Donald Trump campaign aide has ‘flipped’ in the Russia investigation by pleading guilty to charges brought against him and agreeing to help prosecutors.
Richard Gates, who was deputy to the Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, switched his position in an attempt to reportedly protect his family.
A court paper filed by Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into Russian election meddling, revealed the two charges that Mr Gates had admitted.
Mr Gates pleaded guilty to having “conspired to defraud” the United States regarding money earned and lied to investigators.
The change of stance came as Mr Gates agreed a plea bargain, meaning he will work with Mr Mueller in return for leniency.
It raises the possibility of Mr Gates passing on information about how more senior campaign figures behaved towards Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election.
A letter from Mr Gates to his family which was obtained by ABC News explained why he changed his stance from late last year, when he pleaded not guilty to a string of charges.
The 45-year-old reportedly called it a “gut-wrenching decision” but said he needed to protect his family..
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Mr Gates was quoted as saying “despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart”.
He reportedly went on: “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. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”
Mr Manafort said in a statement to Bloomberg: "Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence.
"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."