The fire is getting closer to Donald Trump every day. A third defendant in the Russian plot has decided to collaborate with the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, in the investigation that tries to elucidate whether the current president's team coordinated with the Kremlin in the intoxication campaign against the Democrat Hillary Clinton. The man who has taken the plunge is Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide. Although the charges that have been filed against him are financial in nature, his proximity to the Republican's environment and his association with Paul Manafort, former campaign manager and also defendant, make him a key part of the investigations.
Both Gates and Manafort, in their time as lobbyists, worked in the network of interests of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2014), an ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The investigations have determined that, as a result of this link, some 75 million dollars were moved in tax havens and that about 30 million were laundered in real estate operations in the United States. Both also tried to hide their operations from the treasury with a dense network of shell companies. "They concealed the existence and ownership of companies and bank accounts, and falsely declared that they had no accounts abroad," the indictment states.
Gates has agreed to plead guilty to financial conspiracy and to having lied to the FBI about a meeting that Manafort had with a congressman on Ukraine in 2013. With this step he joins the other two defendants who have agreed to collaborate with the special prosecutor: the former counselor of security Michael Flynn, and election adviser George Papadopoulos, who tried to arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Manafort, for the moment, refuses to agree with Mueller, who on Friday accused him of having paid between 2012 and 2013 two million euros to European politicians (of whom no identity was given) to lobby in favor of the pro-Russian government of Ukraine .
The initial goal of the inquiries was to determine whether Trump's team coordinated with the Kremlin in the 2016 elections. That threshold, however, has long been exceeded. In search of indications of collusion, obstruction of justice or abuse of power, Mueller has extended his investigation to the financial and fiscal statements of the president himself and his environment. It is in this way that Manafort and Gates have been surprised.
The breadth of these investigations has made the White House nervous and unleashed a strong offensive against Mueller and his team of 17 superagents. In the face of these attacks, the special prosecutor has become even more impenetrable. No one knows what the former national security adviser or former adviser Papadopoulos is helping him with. But few doubt that the siege is aimed at the president himself and his family environment.
In this line of investigation, the role of the new FBI collaborator may be key. Unlike Manafort, who left office in August 2016, Gates stayed on the campaign team until Election Day and then served on the investiture committee. With Trump in power, he continued to go to the White House frequently.
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