The news is abuzz today with the indictment of the highly visible former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But mentioned next to Manafort is a far less well-known name, Rick Gates. Who is Gates? And why is he facing a vast array of charges? It turns out that Gates might be, quite literally, Manafort’s “man on the inside,” and that may carry enormous political implications.
- Gates was Manafort’s lobbying partner for years: Gates and Manafort worked together closely, and some news articles refer to Gates as Manafort’s heir apparent in the business of lobbying for unsavory characters. Either way, they have a long relationship, both professionally and personally, and Gates was heavily involved in Manafort’s work with the Ukrainian government.
- Gates has multiple ties to Trump associates, and not just Manafort: A Daily Beast report from June notes that Gates was working for Tom Barrack, a Trump confidante you’re going to hear more about since he advocated for Trump to bring on Manafort as a campaign manager. In other words, Gates was Manafort’s stand-in, hanging around the Trump White House for months while Manafort himself was too toxic to show up at the door.
- Gates has held several jobs in the Trump campaign: He joined the campaign in spring 2016, became the campaign’s liason to the Republican National Committee in the summer, and joined a pro-Trump think tank after the election. He’s consistently been in Trump’s orbit for more than a year.
- That Gates is indicted raises a few eyebrows: As we’ve noted, Trump isn’t mentioned directly in the indictments. But that somebody so close to Trump is being indicted no doubt raises a host of questions both within the administration and around D.C. Keep in mind, though, that charges can easily be added to the indictment at any time, and exactly what Gates is facing charges for might change without warning. This also raises more questions about a host of Trump associates. Just like Manafort supposedly sold out Donald Trump Jr., Gates can likely throw Trump friends and employees under the bus, too. This isn’t an ending, so much, as the start of a much bigger process.