According to a new report by CNN, Robert Mueller’s team of investigators have allegedly sought assistance from Trump’s former campaign deputy Rick Gates on the campaign’s potential contacts with Russia, not his cooperation against his longtime business partner Paul Manafort.
The bombshell report indicates that investigators told Gates they were more interested in hearing what he knew about the campaign’s communications with the Russians than garnering information about Manafort during plea deal negotiations last year.
Court documents filed by prosecutors this week in the case of London-based attorney Alex van der Zwaan allege that Gates had been in contact with an unidentified individual believed by the FBI to have ties to a Russian intelligence agency. The alleged contact took place in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
The documents refer to this informant as “Person A,” but describe him as a business associate of Manafort. According to The Washington Post, this particular description matches that of a longtime Russian employee of Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik.
Last October, both Gates and Manafort were arrested by the Mueller team for money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, and other similar crimes. Gates has been cooperating with the investigation since February when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to an FBI agent.
Manafort, by contrast, maintains his innocence and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Trump and his cohorts have largely criticized the Mueller probe, specifically pointing out that the charges brought forth so far by the special counsel have nothing to do with the core mission in the investigation: illegal coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, or “collusion” as most media outlets have called it.
Mueller’s investigators telling Gates that they needed his help in scrutinizing potential contacts between Trump’s campaigns and the Russians and not against his former associate point the needle back to the alleged collusion.
This means Trump just lost his favorite dismissal of the investigation. Brace yourselves; a slew of angry, deflective tweets are surely on their way from the Oval Office.