Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates just admitted to lying to U.S. investigators about a March 19, 2013, meeting between his boss, Paul Manafort, and an unidentified U.S. congressman. Public filings show a meeting that day between Manafort and Dana Rohrabacher, a Russia-friendly Republican congressman from California.
Gates pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy against the U.S. and making false statements about a meeting that day. In a criminal information unsealed Friday, he admitted that he’d withheld that the meeting included a discussion of Ukraine, where he and Manafort had done political consulting work.
Gates and Manafort were charged in October with money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying work with the U.S. government. Since then, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pressing both men to cooperate, ratcheting up the pressure on Thursday with bank and tax fraud charges and again on Friday with conspiracy and false-statement counts.
Details of a March 19, 2013, meeting surfaced last year in supplemental filings from DMP International, Manafort’s firm, and Mercury Public Affairs, whose partner, Vin Weber, also participated in the 2013 meeting.
Weber and a representative for him didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lobbying that Gates and Manafort are accused of hiding included work on behalf of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Russia.
After the guilty plea on Friday, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, who has sought better relations with Russia, said: “As the congressman has acknowledged before, the meeting was a dinner with two longtime acquaintances –- Manafort and Weber –- from back in his White House and early congressional days.”
“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics,” the spokesman said. “The subject of Ukraine came up in passing. It is no secret that Manafort represented Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine.”