SEARCH

Sunday
Feb252018

Trump aide’s 'very favorable' plea deal ramps up pressure on Manafort, experts say

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A former Trump aide’s plea deal on Friday appears to dangle the possibility that he will get probation -- no jail time -- after cooperating with the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Buried in the plea agreement with Richard Gates, who was an aide to President Donald Trump’s election campaign, is a reference by prosecutors to a special provision in sentencing guidelines that offers a great reward for those willing to help them.

“A defendant who has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense may be sentenced to a term of supervised release that is less than any minimum required by statute or the guidelines,” the statute says.

The plea agreement goes further, saying that if Gates fully cooperates, he will “then be free to argue for any sentence below the advisory sentencing guideline range.” And prosecutors added in the deal that they “may not oppose defendant’s application” if his help proves valuable.

Veteran white-collar criminal defense lawyer Robert Bennett told ABC News that the deal looks to him like a “very favorable” outcome for the 45-year-old Gates, who pleaded guilty Friday to federal conspiracy and false statements charges.

“He’s a young man," Bennett said. "He has a family. There is a big difference between a couple years in jail and 10, or 15, or 20. And there is the possibility that the government, if he is fully cooperative, could come in and go along with a probation.”

However, although the deal looks on its face to be largely positive for Gates, one source familiar with the case urged caution.

“While I agree the possibility of probation is very good, there are a number of red flags here,” the source told ABC News.

Cooperation, according to the source, is going to be very difficult for Gates. “They’ve already shown him he has no margin for error,” the source said. “The government holds all the cards, and the other problem will be if [the government] thinks he has more to give than he does.”

If Gates is found to be uncooperative, the government could snap back charges. And, as part of the plea agreement, Gates will have no opportunity to appeal.

Before making the deal with Gates, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team likely heard a great deal about what the defendant could offer, said Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“If he has reached a cooperation agreement, they should know absolutely everything,” Bharara told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “You don’t sign on the line that is dotted, as they say, unless you know everything.”

Bennett said the real loser in the arrangement is Gates’ longtime colleague and former co-defendant, Paul Manafort.

“He’s in a very difficult position,” Bennett said.

Manafort and Gates were initially indicted in October on alleged money laundering, failing to properly register as foreign agents, and lying to federal officials about lobbying and other activities that took place before and are unrelated to Trump's presidential campaign. Both men pleaded not guilty at the time and were out on bail under home confinement. Last week, prosecutors added a fresh round of charges that included conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal and false statements.

The plea agreement with Gates on Friday appears to put even more pressure on Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman during the summer stretch in 2016 leading into the Republican National Convention.

Manafort continues to maintain his innocence. But the new filings in the Gates case suggest that prosecutors have placed the lion’s share of blame for the criminal conduct on Manafort. Repeatedly, the document refers to conduct by Gates coming “at Manafort’s instruction,” and describes him as “helping Manafort” transfer his funds in order to evade U.S. taxes.

“Gates, with Manafort’s knowledge and agreement, repeatedly misled Manafort’s accountants,” the court filing says at one point. At another, it says that “Gates, acting at Manafort’s instructions, did not report the accounts’ existence to Manafort’s tax accountants.”

ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams said on This Week that Manafort may himself be just a step on the special counsel's path to other targets.

“I think for the government to want to make a deal with Gates, there has to be something more here. You have to view all of these as building blocks," Abrams said of the plea deals.

He added, "The reason the government is making these deals, the reason they are eliminating an enormous amount of counts against these various people is because they believe they have something to offer them. Something beyond what we already know.”

The first step that the special counsel’s office indicated it would take to reward Gates for his cooperation is dismissal of a hefty indictment filed in Virginia last week against him, court records show. The charges could be dismissed as early as Monday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb252018

Kasich: Florida shooting creates 'a window' to reform gun laws

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Florida school shooting that killed 17 people has created a “window” for reforming gun laws in the U.S., according to a Republican governor.

“Everything kind of has its time,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an interview that aired Sunday on This Week. “If we can move this thing significantly forward, our country will be safer. Our children will be safer. But we’ve got a moment now, a window.”

President Donald Trump responded to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by promoting the idea of putting "gun-adept" teachers and staff carrying concealed firearms in classrooms and schools to protect students.

Kasich, a Republican, said he believes it is “reasonable” to give teachers the option of being armed at school.

“If there are teachers who say, ‘Look, I want to take training, I want to be able to be in a strong position,' if there is a way in which they can volunteer and get into a position of where they can be a protection for kids, I think that’s reasonable,” he said.

Kasich was interviewed along with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, whose state was the site of both the Columbine High School gun massacre nearly 20 years ago that killed 13 and a 2012 shooting inside a movie theater in which 12 died.

Hickenlooper said he is open to possibly allowing teachers to carry guns, but doesn’t believe many educators would want to take that on.

“I can count on one hand the number of teachers who said they wanted to be trained and wanted to be able to carry a gun,” Hickenlooper said. “So I agree with John here that if volunteers want to do this, and this is something they're willing to go through serious training and really be responsibly prepared for any situation -- you know, that's something we can look into.”

“But the expectation that you're going to get 20 percent of teachers to go through that training and want it -- it was not my experience,” Hickenlooper added.

The Colorado governor said the overall failure to pass gun control in the U.S. has allowed the places where "we create community” to be threatened.

“We’re at that point where we’re allowing ourselves to be terrorized by ourselves,” Hickenlooper said. "If you wanted to weaken this country, what better way to do it than to make children afraid to go to school? And you look at -- it’s not just schools, it’s churches, if you listen to a country-music concert.”

In 2014, Colorado enacted legislation requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, which has proved successful, the Democratic governor said.

“It was a big political battle,” he said. “But universal background checks -- they work.”

Hickenlooper added that he would like to see restrictions on access to assault weapons, saying, “I don’t think we should have military-grade weapons available to teenagers, to start.”

A full ban on assault weapons is "still a tough sell," he said. "But, you know, this is all a function of public sentiment. I think public sentiment is clearly changing, and there are more and more people out there just saying military-grade weapons don’t belong out on the streets.”

Kasich voted for an assault weapons ban in 1994 when he was a member of Congress. The law was put in place but expired in 2004.

The Republican governor said he believes that legislation now should focus on the size of gun magazines.

“Why do you have to have a weapon with 30 bullets on it?” Kasich said of large-capacity magazines. “Can you limit that?”

The 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people -- mostly students -- at Stoneman Douglas opened fire at the school with an AR-15-style rifle, according to police.

“To me, if you can get at the ammunition, then you will have made a significant impact on the ability of somebody, without reloading, to cause enormous damage,” Kasich said. “And maybe we’ll see [President Trump] buy into that.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb252018

Republican governor: US could be witnessing 'end of a two-party system'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he believes Americans could be witnessing the “end of a two-party system.”

“I don't think either party is answering people's deepest concerns and needs,” Kasich told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an interview that aired Sunday on This Week. “I mean, I don't think it's going to happen tomorrow. But I think, over time, do not be surprised if these millennials and these Gen-Xers begin to say, ‘Neither party works. We want something new.’”

Kasich ran for the GOP nomination for president in 2016 and, after losing the primary to Donald Trump, withheld his endorsement from the Republican nominee in the general election against Democrat Hillary Clinton. He said in a recent book that he could not “set aside everything I believed for the good of the party.”

Asked by Karl on This Week if other Republicans may be putting aside their beliefs to support Trump, Kasich turned to criticizing the Democratic Party for having "no agenda."

“You know, people want me to criticize my party. Let me tell you about the Democrats. I have no clue what they stand for,” Kasich said. “And we are heading into a midterm election where they are counting on the Republicans bouncing the basketball off of their foot and out of bounds. ... But how can you have a national political party that has no agenda?”

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who was interviewed along with Kasich, said, “Right now, both parties don’t seem capable of having a coherent agenda.”

Kasich and Hickenlooper have recently sought to transcend the sharp political divisions in the U.S. to find bipartisan solutions on critical issues such as health care and immigration.

Both are nearing the end of their gubernatorial terms and could be candidates for president in 2020.

Hickenlooper said there is still "a lot to do” in Colorado, and as to a possible 2020 bid, he said, "I haven't formed a PAC. I don't have committees all over the country. I'm not doing those things.”

It's a "maybe" whether he'll run, he said.

Kasich, who was the last rival to Trump to exit the 2016 race for the Republican nomination, refused to say whether he would mount a primary challenge against the sitting president.

“I have no idea what I'm going to do. I'd like to have a voice, I'd like to be constructive, I like to rally people," Kasich said. "But, frankly, in the end, at the end of the day, it's in the hands of the Lord as to what my future is.”

Kasich spoke of the demands of a presidential campaign while also conceding he is a "maybe" on a 2020 presidential bid.

“I don't think about it. You know what, because I can't predict the future," the Ohio governor said. "Do I sit around at night and think, 'Do I want to go through running for president again?' Did you ever try it? Go try it once and give me a call. See how much fun it is.”


Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb242018

Democrats release redacted memo pushing back on GOP claims of DOJ abuse of government surveillance powers

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have released a redacted memo meant to push back on Republicans' claims of DOJ and FBI abuse of government surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser.

President Donald Trump objected to the release of the memo two weeks ago, citing national security concerns.

In a letter to the committee at the time, White House counsel Don McGahn said the 10-page document contained "numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages" and asked the panel to work with the Justice Department to revise the document.

Democrats spent a week negotiating redactions to the memo with the FBI ahead of its release Saturday. The negotiations wrapped up last week, according to a committee official, and the panel received the memo from the DOJ on Saturday afternoon.

Democrats say the document is a rebuttal to claims made in a Republican-authored memo released by the committee.

"The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement Saturday.

The White House appeared to claim Saturday that the Democrats’ document vindicated Trump in the ongoing Russia investigation.

"As the President has long stated, neither he nor his campaign ever colluded with a foreign power during the 2016 election, and nothing in today’s memo counters that fact,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

President Trump also took to Twitter Saturday to call the Democratic memo "a total political and legal bust" that "confirms all of the terrible things that were done. So Illegal!"

The heavily redacted document said the FBI and the Justice Department "did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" and added that the FBI "would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought" surveillance of Carter Page, the former advisor.

Republicans alleged that the DOJ and FBI relied too heavily on unverified intelligence in a dossier prepared by former British spy, Christopher Steele, in their surveillance applications –- and that law enforcement officials did not inform the court that the research was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.

In their memo, Democrats said law enforcement "cited multiple sources" of reasons to be interested in Page, and properly disclosed them to the FISA court while only making "narrow" use of the information from the so-called Steele dossier.

Democrats also claimed that the DOJ, in subsequent FISA renewal applications, "provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting" about Page’s meetings with Russian officials in Moscow in 2016.

The Democratic memo said the dossier "did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation" and also said FISA court was told there was evidence the Russians "took interest" in Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Democrats revealed in their memo that the FBI had already opened "sub-inquiries into...individuals linked to the Trump campaign" by the time the Steele dossier made its way to the agents conducting the Russia counterintelligence probe in September 2016. The names of those other individuals are redacted in the memo.

Democrats also claimed that the DOJ "provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated" Steele’s information.

Page called the memo a "smear campaign" against him and called for the “immediate disclosure of all my FISA applications and other relevant documents,” in a statement Saturday evening.

"This latest smear campaign by DNC loyalists is going to turn out the same way as their original multi-million dollar attack of 2016," Page said in the statement. "As we’ve seen many times before with the felonious news leaks of the past year, this new round of misinformation surrounding efforts by Washington to illegally influence the 2016 election inflicts even more damages on the instigating perpetrators from the swamp."

The release of the Democratic memo ends the latest chapter of the House Intelligence Committee's divisive Russia investigation. The traditionally bipartisan panel has struggled to conduct its work amid partisan sniping over its investigation into Russian election interference and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The situation has become so unworkable that the committee is planning to build a physical barrier between Republican and Democratic staff in their shared secure office space in the basement of the Capitol, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb242018

Trump: Arming teachers in schools 'up to States'

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday in support of arming teachers following this month's deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, saying educators should have annual training and proposing they should get a yearly bonus for being armed.

Trump has supported the idea in recent days amid the national conversation on combatting mass shootings, but in this tweet, he said arming teachers should be "up to States."

"Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States," he tweeted.

Earlier Saturday morning, Trump retweeted his own tweet from two days ago, in which he calls for background checks "with an emphasis on mental health," raising the age to be eligible to purchase a gun to 21, and banning bump stocks.

Over the past week, the president has mentioned several proposals besides arming teachers, including strengthening background checks, raising the age restriction for gun purchases, bump stock bans, and adding more mental health resources. The White House is also looking at so-called "red-flag" laws, or extreme risk protection orders, at the state level.

"I think some states have had these red-flag laws for example, that remove firearms after you go to a judge for potentially dangerous individuals," White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said during Thursday's briefing. "That's something that's being done right now in a variety of states, right?  They have due process rights for these individuals.  It seems to be working in certain areas.  That's something that we're looking at and other places we're looking at."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb242018

Rep. Joe Kennedy III talks gun control after Fla. shooting

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Joe Kennedy III thinks the U.S. needs to do more to stop gun violence in the wake of the recent mass shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school.

Kennedy expressed strong opinions on the necessity of Congress taking more action and discredited the debate being focused on mental health issues.

“We’re not doing enough," Kennedy, D-Mass., said during an appearance on Friday on "The View." "I came into office in 2013. I can't even tell you how many times we have uttered our thoughts and prayers to the victims and survivors of gun violence and thoughts aren't doing it. Democrats have tried and staged a sit-in for hours trying to get a vote on the House floor for a single piece.”

Kennedy, 37, who is on his third term, delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union in January.

Kennedy emphasized the importance of speaking up.

“The folks being able to hold Republican leadership accountable are not going to be Democrats in the House, it’s going to be the American people saying, 'We want this, we want to protect our kids.'”

On Trump’s proposal to give bonuses to teachers who carry guns, Kennedy opposed the idea, saying that “making sure that more and more people have guns” is not “the right way to protect our children in schools.”

Trump suggested the idea of arming teachers and school staff on Wednesday after listening to emotional narratives from survivors and the families and friends of mass shooting victims.

“The first big bill out of Congress was a bill to cut Medicaid, the largest payer of mental health service in this country, by $800 billion. So don't turn around and tell me this is a mental health issue when you just tried to cut that by $800 billion,” said Kennedy in response to his Republican colleagues who point to mental health issues, and not guns, as being the problem.

Kennedy has put in “efforts to strengthen mental health parity laws [and] increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for behavioral health providers” since he has taken office, according to his official website. He is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb242018

Bernie Sanders' son considering run for Congress from New Hampshire

Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic(WASHINGTON) -- A new but familiar name might soon be added to the list of candidates running in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District race: Levi Sanders, the son of 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

A senior adviser to Levi Sanders told ABC News that he's "in the stages of deciding" whether he'll run for Congress, talking it over with his potential constituents.

Sanders doesn't have a firm timeline, but will decide in the next few weeks, Ansh Grover said.

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is retiring, leaving seven Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian seeking her seat.

Sanders would be the eighth Democrat in one of the most competitive races in the nation.

He told Vice News that he would advocate for Medicare for all and free college tuition -- just as his father does.

Sanders was a senior adviser on his father's presidential campaign. Considering how well Bernie Sanders did in New Hampshire in the 2016 election, one political analyst said voters there might like the idea of having someone with the Sanders name representing their district in Washington.

Dean Spiliotes, a political blogger for NHPoliticalCapital.com and a scholar at Southern New Hampshire University, told ABC News he believes Sanders would likely be running on the “family political brand.”

If Levi Sanders does decide to run, he faces some daunting challenges, despite his famous name, Spiliotes said.

To start with, Sanders doesn't live in the 1st District, and Spiliotes said he would have to have a good explanation for why he'd be running in a district where he doesn't reside. (In Sanders' home district, the incumbent is seeking re-election.)

And while his name might give him an advantage, Spiliotes said Sanders not being a high-profile political figure in his own right in New Hampshire could hurt him.

Another challenge: Many of Bernie Sanders’ political consultants are currently working for the campaign of another Democratic candidate -- state Rep. Mark McKenzie. When ABC News asked one of Sanders' top aides during the 2016 race, who is based in New Hampshire and helped the Vermont senator win handily there, what he thought of Levi Sanders running, he responded with a giant thumbs-down emoji.

Given that, Spiliotes told ABC News it would be interesting to see how support for Bernie Sanders might shake out between Levi Sanders and McKenzie.

Sanders could also run into trouble going up against two other popular Democrats: Chris Pappas and Maura Sullivan.

Chris Pappas is well-known in New Hampshire and is "plugged into the party apparatus in the state,” Spiliotes said.

And Sullivan, who served as a top official in Obama Veterans Administration following a career in the Marines, had impressive fundraising numbers in the last quarter of 2017, he said.

A spokesperson for Sullivan declined to comment to ABC News, while Pappas and McKenzie have yet to respond.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Feb242018

Texas Democratic candidate says she’s 'disappointed' in party after DCCC launches attack 

Michael Stravato/The Washington Post(HOUSTON) -- Texas congressional candidate Laura Moser said she was shocked when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- which tends to reserve its attacks for Republican candidates -- released negative research about her recently.

“If I was a comic book character, I think my mouth would’ve hit the floor,” she said.

The DCCC prides itself on supporting Democrats seeking seats in the House of Representatives, but on Thursday, the group surprisingly took aim at Moser, a former journalist and congressional candidate from its own party who is running in the 7th Congressional District in Texas.

In the organization's website post, Moser was described as a “Washington insider who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress.”

The organization also cited an article in which she reportedly stated she would rather have her teeth pulled out without anesthesia than live in Texas, a comment Moser said was taken out of context.

“It’s something we would expect from the other side, but not our own party,” Moser said. Her message to the committee: “Get your priorities straight.”

In response, DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly said in a statement to ABC News that Moser's "disgust for life in Texas" disqualifies her from running.

“Voters in Houston have organized for over a year to hold Representative Culberson accountable and win this Clinton district," the statement said, referring to Democrat Hillary Clinton's winning the district by a small margin over Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. "Unfortunately, Laura Moser’s outright disgust for life in Texas disqualifies her as a general election candidate, and would rob voters of their opportunity to flip Texas’ 7th in November.”

The DCCC's move draws attention to possible tension within the Democratic Party in a highly competitive race.

Democrats have had their eyes set on the 7th Congressional District in Texas.

The Houston-area district has been held by a Republican for the past 50 years. Clinton won the district in the 2016 election by a small margin, but it was enough to trigger a major push to flip the long-standing red district blue.

Several Democrats are fighting for the chance to challenge incumbent GOP Rep. John Culberson, who has held the seat since 2001.

For a Democrat to win this district, it will require moderate Republicans to vote against their party, Rice University political science professor Robert Stein said.

Some in the Democratic Party may believe Moser is too liberal, he said.

“The Democrats believe it’s important to have a candidate who can attract moderate Republicans to cross over, and that’s not something Laura Moser can do,” Stein said.

Moser disagrees and rejects the notion that she is too liberal to win over Republican voters. She believes her Democratic opponents fall into two categories: right of center and left of center.

"They think the only candidates who can win are kind of Republican-like candidates," she said of the DCCC, adding, "I’m attracting Republican voters not because I’m trying to be a Republican, but because I’m a straight talker."

As for the state of the Democratic Party, Moser said that in light of the DCCC's comments, she is worried about her party’s chances of flipping the House.

“Since this is the first primary in the country, maybe I’m the test case,” she said.

Moser said she believes the committee needs to let the voters decide who is fit to represent them. “It worries me that they would be interfering so dramatically and viciously and personally. … They say they want more women to run for office -- and this is what you do.”

Voter turnout among women in this district is key.

Women make up 51 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The only woman to win the district is Hillary Clinton. Moser is one of two women running in the district.

The other, lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, is endorsed by Emily's List, a group that helps women seeking public office. Stein believes the idea of two women in a runoff may have also gotten the DCCC worried.

Alternatively, Moser believes the comments made by the DCCC could result in neither of the women going into a runoff.

Her campaign has been picking up speed. She has raised nearly $150,000 in the first quarter of 2018 and is set to host a voter event with actress and activist Alyssa Milano this weekend.

Moser was part of the resistance movement following President Donald Trump’s election and created Daily Action, a civic engagement tool that drew in a quarter of a million subscribers.


Democracy for America, which has been a strong supporter of Moser's campaign, released a statement supporting the candidate.

“Laura Moser is a fifth-generation Houstonian building a genuine grassroots campaign in her home community, and while that might not get the Republican-lite cheerleaders at the DCCC their sweet consulting gigs after this cycle, it’s exactly the kind of campaign we need to win this critical race and retake the House in November,” said Annie Weinberg, electoral director of Democracy for America.

Although Moser said she is “disappointed” in her party, she plans to keep moving forward. Early voting in the Houston-area district started this week and ends March 2.

Election Day for Democratic and Republican primaries is March 6. It is the first primary in the nation.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Feb232018

Former Trump aide Rick Gates pleads guilty to two counts in Russia investigation

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Richard Gates, Donald Trump’s one-time campaign aide, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts: conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities.

Gates is the latest person in the Trump campaign's orbit to face charges in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest. He is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson noted during Gates’ plea hearing.

Inside a federal courtroom in Washington on Friday, Gates admitted to helping former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort steer tens of millions of dollars overseas and then hide it from U.S. tax authorities.

“Mr. Manafort did not pay taxes on that income,” and Gates “was aware it’s illegal to hide income from the IRS,” prosecutor Greg Andres said, noting that Gates helped prepare Manafort’s tax forms. Gates also helped hide Manafort’s foreign bank accounts, he conceded in court.

Another prosecutor also told the judge that Gates and Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent, as required by U.S. law, even though he was lobbying behalf of the government in Ukraine.

At one point, Berman Jackson asked Gates how he pleads to the charges against him, and he said, “Guilty, your honor.”

Highlighting the weight of the decision he was making before he pleaded guilty, Gates noted to the judge, “I am 45 years old, your honor.”

The conspiracy, prosecutors say, spans from 2006 to 2017 and involved more than $75 million that flowed through offshore accounts.

Prosecutors say Gates also lied to the special counsel’s office on Feb. 1 when he said that Manafort denied to him that Ukraine was discussed at a March 2013 meeting with a lobbyist and member of Congress.

According to the charging document, Manafort never denied that to Gates and he helped Manafort prepare a report referencing Ukraine after the meeting.

While U.S. law indicates Gates could face up to 10 years in prison for the charges he pleaded guilty to on Friday, Berman Jackson said U.S. sentencing guidelines recommend he face no more than about six years in prison, and as little as four years and three months behind bars.

Nevertheless, Mueller’s team agreed to allow Gates’ attorney, Thomas Green, to argue for an even lesser sentence given his pending cooperation.

Green indicated he plans to argue that Gates’ conduct was not as egregious as Manafort’s.

It’s “disproportionate conduct,” Green said.

As part of this plea deal, Gates is giving up his rights under the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act — as the special counsel’s office might seek certain information or documents from him.

Manafort said Gates' plea does not affect his own stance.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence. 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," Manafort said in a statement. "This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Feb232018

Grand jury returns new charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a five-count superseding indictment Friday that accuses former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of paying a group of “senior European politicians” to lobby members of Congress on behalf of the then-Russia backed government of Ukraine.

The plan, the indictment said, was for the group to appear to be presenting U.S. officials and others with independent assessments of controversial actions taken by the Ukrainians “when in fact they were paid lobbyists.”

Manafort allegedly paid the European politicians millions from offshore accounts that should have been disclosed to the United States.

The fresh round of charges against Manafort contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

In Friday’s filing, the special counsel’s office accuses Manafort of paying a group of former European leaders more than 2 million euros to lobby on behalf of Ukraine in 2012. Manafort offered payment to the former leaders - known informally as the "Hapsburg group" - in exchange for them to appear to be providing independent assessments of Ukraine's government.

The latest charges come against Manafort as his former colleague, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court and has agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Gates, a one-time Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty to two felony counts: conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities.

Manafort said Gates' plea does not affect his own stance.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence. 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," Manafort said in a statement. "This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio