Rick Gates and Paul Manafort are like the Abbott and Costello of the Russia investigation, they just can’t help but get themselves into wacky, troublesome situations.
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This time it’s Gates who’s in hot water with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson who demanded an explanation for his apparent violation of the gag order issued regarding his high-profile money laundering case facing trial.
Rick Gates appeared in a videotaped address played at a poorly-attended fundraiser for his legal defense on December 19.
To be clear, this is just how poorly-attended the event was:
Jack Burkman fundraiser for Rick Gates doesn't look promising. pic.twitter.com/52MZ5aNzIp
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) December 20, 2017
I’m at a fundraiser for Rick Gates’s legal-defense fund. There are almost as many reporters here as potential donors. Gates himself, who is under house arrest pending trial, will be appearing via Facebook. pic.twitter.com/JK0fB7JTmw
— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) December 20, 2017
The judge ordered the defendant to basically tell her why she shouldn’t punish him right now for doing exactly what she told him not to do, which is talk about the case in any way that might influence a potential jury should it go to trial next year.
She took issue specifically with Gates’ “reference to ‘the cause’ and the goal of ‘ensuring that our supporters from across the United States hear our message and stand with us.” And the fact that the event was populated with far more journalists than donors, which implies that this message was meant to be disseminated widely.
Seems like Gates knew exactly what he was doing and that he was toeing the line of legality. In the video, he said “As you may be aware there is a gag order in the case, so I am not able to talk specifically about the case.”
It’s basically the “I’m not touching you” of gag order violations.
Judge Jackson also wanted an explanation of Gates’ relationship to Jack Burkman, the lobbyist who organized the fundraising event. Burkman called the prosecution “very unfair” in the presence of journalists, which the Judge took to be a violation of the gag order as well.
Burkman lashed out at the Judge, whining that both he and Gates were being intimidated and having their First Amendment rights restricted. He also lamented that we may now be “living in Stalin’s Russia.” Which is ironic, given the whole theme of these court proceedings to begin with.
Judge Jackson, for her part, explicitly said in her order that no one is being intimidated, nor are they barred from speaking broadly, only with regards to the case and in ways that could influence a jury.
Rick Gates and former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort were both indicted in October on charges separate from but related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. They were charged with money laundering, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine.
Since the indictments, both Gates and Manafort have been whiny little defendants, complaining about everything from the size of their ankle monitors to the unfairness of the limits on their expression in the Ukranian Press.
Doesn’t look like either of them will go quietly in this case.