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Another former Trump aide flipped in the Russia investigation

He's the third Trump aide to plead guilty in the special investigation

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI on Friday, entering the latest guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. election.

Mueller filed a new 32-count indictment against Gates and his associate and former campaign manager Paul Manafort on Thursday, detailing a decadelong money laundering and tax evasion scheme.


The guilty plea came together over the past few days, according to the New York Times, wrapping up a month of turmoil that began when Gates’ lawyers asked to withdraw from the case in early February. A series of sealed documents and hearings followed, as Gates found new representation. But by Thursday afternoon, things were still up in the air — until the new indictment dropped Thursday evening.

Hours after the new charges were revealed, Gates officially retained former D.C. prosecutor Thomas Green, who specializes in federal plea deals.

“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates explained to loved ones in a letter obtained by ABC News. “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."

The duo concealed more than $30,000,000 from U.S. authorities while lying about having any foreign bank accounts, the indictment alleges.

Gates specifically pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when he said Manafort told him after a 2013 meeting with a member of Congress that Ukraine had not been discussed. Not only did Manafort not say that, the guilty plea details, Gates had actually helped prepare a memo from the meeting showing the topic had clearly been discussed.

The Gates deal also means Manafort is the only Trump advisor left who has been charged in the investigation and not pleaded guilty. Both former national security advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

Gates and Manafort worked very closely on foreign lobbying jobs, and Gates could hold crucial evidence about the allegations against Manafort, who left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after increased public scrutiny of his foreign lobbying history.

Manafort on Friday continued to proclaim his innocence.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” he said in a rare written statement. “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.”