The office of special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed a new indictment on Thursday against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates. The 32-count filing charges both men with multiple financial crimes related to political consulting work they did on behalf of pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine over the last 15 years.
None of the crimes involve either of the defendants’ tenures on the Trump campaign. However, the additional charges put Manafort and Gates in deeper peril of serving long prison sentences if they’re found guilty at trial. Legal experts theorized during the initial wave of indictments against the two men last October that Mueller deliberately undercharged Manafort and Gates. That would allow the special counsel’s team to pressure them into plea bargaining negotiations in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.
Multiple news outlets reported that Mueller’s team was close to finalizing a plea deal with Gates, who served as Manafort’s deputy when Manafort ran the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016. The long business relationship between the two men likely would have made such a plea deal dangerous for Manafort, especially if Gates testified against his former associate in exchange for a lighter sentence. Whether Gates is still negotiating with the special counsel is unclear after Thursday’s charges. The Daily Beast reported that Gates had fired an attorney who’s known for striking plea deals.
In the new indictment, federal prosecutors accuse Manafort and Gates of evading U.S. tax laws by misrepresenting and not reporting tens of millions of dollars in income from their consulting work in Ukraine, using a series of loans from multiple overseas banks to cover their tracks. According to prosecutors, Manafort and Gates then used those funds to purchase high-end real estate in the U.S., which became collateral for tens of millions of dollars in loans from U.S. banks. Manafort allegedly received $30 million in laundered funds, while Gates took $3 million.
Thursday’s filings cap one of the busiest weeks yet for Mueller’s team, at least from what’s publicly discernable. The special counsel’s office secured a guilty plea on Tuesday from Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who once worked for a top U.S. law firm. In the plea, van der Zwaan admitted to lying to federal investigators about his conversations with Gates during the 2016 presidential election, some of which were recorded.