Rick Gates pleaded guilty on Friday in a deal with the Mueller investigation and is cooperating with the prosecution of his former boss, Paul Manafort. Rachel Maddow has a rundown of the plea documents and why this could be a huge game-changer, not just for the financial crimes they were both accused of, but for the real prize, which would be the charges of collusion with the Russian government.
In particular, the history of the relationship between Manafort/Gates and Russian oligarch Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, head of one of the world’s largest aluminum companies, has enormous potential for taking this scandal from serious to world-shattering. We already knew that they worked for Deripaska and that they are charged with hiding that money and failing to pay taxes on it. But the new indictments filed are on a whole different level. Part of that is that they were faking income and asset documents to take out loans against Manafort’s properties, which resulted in new charges of bank fraud for both men.
But there is evidence in financial documents from Cyprus that showed he was in debt to Deripaska to the tune of nearly $8 million, which would explain why he was trying to leverage his assets and turn them into cash. And as Maddow notes, Deripaska is a guy who plays hardball. This guy is Russian mafia and is very close to Putin. Their enemies have a nasty habit of turning up dead. Deripaska sued Manafort in 2015 to get that money back.
And according to court documents, Manafort, shortly after joining the Trump campaign, sought to use that position to get out from under his debt to Deripaska. In a message to his former representative in Russia, Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort asked, “How do we use to get whole? Has OVD operation seen?” OVD is, of course, Deripaska. Kilimnik then touched base with Deripaska and told Manafort that he had “several important messages” from Deripaska for him and that they should meet in person so he could deliver them. That meeting took place in New York. And Manafort began offering “briefings” on the campaign to Deripaska. And suddenly, guess what happened? The lawsuit was dropped. Deripaska stopped hounding Manafort to get his money back.
You don’t need to know much more than that to surmise what was going on. And what does it come back to, as I’ve been saying from the start? Sanctions. Deripaska stands to lose a lot of money because of the sanctions, though nothing like Putin already does. If Deripaska could use Manafort’s debt to influence Trump on sanctions, Putin would make tens of billions of dollars, bare minimum. Given their close relationship, if Deripaska could get that done for Putin, he would undoubtedly make vast amounts of money too.
We can’t know for sure that this is what happened at this point, but you can be sure that Mueller has far more evidence than was revealed in the indictments that will come out in court later. And there’s more smoke here than there is on my porch when I’m cooking brisket. This could truly end up being the silver bullet. Here’s Maddow’s full report: