Paul Manafort this morning:
“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.”
Robert Mueller this afternoon:
Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was hit with new charges on Friday, including an allegation he secretly recruited and funded a group of former European politicians to lobby in the United States on behalf of Ukraine.
The superseding indictment was filed just a couple of hours after Manafort’s business partner, former campaign aide Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to lying to investigators — even while he was negotiating a deal with Mueller.
Gates is now the third associate of President Donald Trump to strike a cooperation agreement with Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to the campaign.
The agreement, which requires Gates to cooperate on “all matters” prosecutors deem relevant, appears to be a good deal for both sides. Gates could get as little as probation if he keeps up his end of the bargain, and Mueller’s case from Manafort morphs from one built on paper evidence to one where the star witness worked hand-in-hand with the defendant.