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February 23, 2018

Interesting sentencing details as former Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleads guilty and faces significant prison time

In this post from October following their indictment, I highlighted that former campaign officials for Prez Trump, Paul Manifort and Rick Gates, could be facing very significant prison terms in light of the charges and potentially applicable sentencing guidelines. Today, as reported here by BuzzFeed News, "Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and longtime associate of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty on Friday in the criminal case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's office." And the BuzzFeed News report includes these interesting legal and practical sentencing particulars:

The two counts in the new criminal information each have a maximum penalty of five years in jail. According to Gates' plea agreement with the special counsel's office, he faces an estimated sentencing guidelines range of between 57 and 71 months in jail and a fine between $20,000 and $200,000; those numbers could change when the guidelines range is ultimately calculated, the judge noted.

Gates' lawyer Thomas Green told the judge that he reserved the right to argue for a lower sentence based on Gates' "disproportionate conduct" as compared to Manafort. Gates has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel's office. If prosecutors determine he has "provided substantial assistance," they have agreed to file a motion asking for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines range. When Gates is sentenced, the government will dismiss the remaining counts in the original indictment as well as the new charges filed in Virginia.

As part of the plea deal, Gates agreed to delay his sentencing to give him time to cooperate. Asked how far out into the future the judge should set a deadline for the government to update the court on the status of the case, special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann suggested three to four months. US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a deadline for a status report for May 14.

Gates spoke little during the plea hearing. He and Green declined to speak with reporters after the hearing as he exited the courthouse and got into a car.  He'll remain free pending sentencing, albeit subject to continued GPS monitoring and certain limits on his ability to travel beyond his home city of Richmond, Virginia.  He also had to agree to forfeit certain assets if he fled or failed to show up to court.

The folks at Lawfare have Gates's superseding criminal information and plea agreement now posted at this link. That agreement explains the ways in which the parties determine that "the applicable Guidelines Offense Level will be at least 25" which means the "estimated Sentencing Guidelines range is 57 months to 71." The plea agreement also speaks to potential departure arguments this way:

Your client agrees that, solely for the purposes of calculating the applicable range under the Sentencing Guidelines, a downward departure from the Estimated Guidelines Range set forth above is not warranted, subject to the paragraphs regarding cooperation below and the argument that the Guidelines do not adequately reflect the defendant's role in the offense.  Accordingly, you will not seek any departure or adjustment to the Estimated Guidelines Range set forth above, nor suggest that the Court consider such a departure or adjustment for any other reason other than those Specified above.  Your client also reserves the right to disagree with the Estimated Guideline Range calculated by the Office.  However, your client understands and acknowledges that the Estimated Guidelines Range agreed to by the Office is not binding on the Probation Office or the Court.  Should the Court or Probation Office determine that a different guidelines range is applicable, your client will not be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea on that basis, and the Government and your client will still be bound by this Agreement.

February 23, 2018 at 04:26 PM | Permalink


Watergate redux.

Posted by: Sam the prosecutor | Feb 23, 2018 5:09:23 PM

The defense lawyers should have ordered Michael Levine's "171 Easy Mitigating Factors" before making the deal--but hell, maybe they did.

Posted by: Emily | Feb 23, 2018 5:11:40 PM

Emily, they did, but only two of the 171 applied!!

Posted by: anon1 | Feb 23, 2018 5:13:40 PM

the dominoes are falling one by one.

Posted by: Mary contrary | Feb 23, 2018 5:44:47 PM

The plea agreement says that Gates "will not seek any departure or adjustment to the Estimated Guidelines Range set forth above, nor suggest that the Court consider such a departure or adjustment for any other reason other than those Specified above." Nothing here, however, prohibits Gates from arguing for a downard "variance" from the guidelines, as opposed to a departure or adjusment. Plea agreements are strictly construed gainst the government!!

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Feb 23, 2018 8:26:42 PM

Trump and his cronies "only choose the best" advisors: Papadopoulos (felon) , Gates (felon), Flynn (felon), Alex van der Zwaan (felon) , Manafort (charged with multiple felonies). Historians, what do you say? Are we approaching Watergate levels? TeaPot Dome?

Readers, you be the judge. Here's a nice summary of historic scandals by one website:

1. The Credit Mobilier Scandal

The Credit Mobilier scandal was the first major corruption scandal in the wake of the Civil War. Starting in 1867, several high-ranking Republican congressmen (all close supporters of soon to be President Ulysses S. Grant), were given and/or purchased at below market prices stock in the Credit Mobilier of America company, which was involved in the funding and construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. The Congressmen then proceeded to grant a number of public subsidies and other gifts to the company to help line their own pockets. Another of the major players was another future President: James A. Garfield.

2. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings

Thomas Jefferson's alleged relationship with Sally Hemmings was the first presidential sex scandal in the United States and prompted a discussion that continues to this day. In 1802 Jefferson was charged with having an affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, and in fact fathering a child. Jefferson denied the charges and remained as president for another 7 years, however the debate about the truth of the matter continued until 1998 when DNA testing proved that Jefferson more than likely fathered at least one of Sally Hemming's children.

3. The Whiskey Ring

Ulysses S. Grant's presidency is often considered to be one of the most corrupt in history, and with good reason, as two major scandals took place during his presidency. The second was the Whiskey Ring scandal, involving a bribery and tax evasion scandal among many high ranking members of his cabinet (and even his own private secretary) and whiskey distillers. It resulted in the impeachment of his secretary of war, William Belknap, although he resigned before he could be convicted.

3. Iran-Contra

Iran-Contra is one of the biggest scandals to rock the presidency in modern times. When news that the Reagan administration was not only selling arms to Iran but using the profits to secretly fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, whom Congress had forbid the President from giving assistance too, the story caused a firestorm throughout the country. Admiral John M. Poindexter and Lt. Colonel Oliver North became the major targets of the scandal and became embroiled in lengthy trials and originally convicted for their roles although these convictions were later released on appeal, among fourteen other persons charged criminally in the whole affair. The scandal continues to be a black mark upon the Reagan presidency for many.

4. Teapot Dome

The Teapot Dome scandal of the Warren G. Harding administration has long been one of the poster boys of the world of presidential scandals. Harding transferred control of naval oil reserve lands over to the Department of the Interior in 1921 (although it was later reversed by the Supreme Court, who ruled the move illegal). Then Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall used his new power for personal gain, giving rights to the Teapot Dome Reserve in Wyoming to the Mammoth Oil company in return for bribes. When the scandal broke in 1924 he was found to have accumulated over $100,000 worth of bribes from the Mammoth Oil Company, among others. Although Harding had already died in office prior to the scandal breaking, it became a hot topic of controversy for years after his death and continues to plague his now infamous legacy.

5. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky

Perhaps no other scandal in presidential history can equal the Monica Lewinsky affair for pure sensationalism and absurdity. President Bill Clinton's sexual affair with an intern ultimately led to the second presidential impeachment in the history of the country (the first was that of Andrew Johnson in 1868). Although Clinton was ultimately acquitted of any crime, the affair became a laughing stock around the world and led to one of the most unusual documents in political history: the Starr Report, which intimately and often graphically described Clinton's entire sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsy.

6. Watergate

There may be many scandals in the annals of United States presidential history, but none can compare for sheer impact with that of the Watergate scandal under the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Beginning with a break-in at the Democratic headquarters stationed in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. by five members of Nixon's re-election campaign. Although not initially involved Nixon found out about the break-in and did everything he did to cover up the scandal. When he was ultimately found out the news shocked the nation and led to a grand disillusionment with the American political system. It has also led to just about every subsequent presidential scandal, both large and small, gaining the suffix "gate." (I.E. Whitewatergate, Monicagate, Plamegate, etc.)

Readers, where do you think the "Russia-gate" scandal will ultimately rank?

Posted by: Sandra the historian | Feb 23, 2018 11:19:52 PM

Current washington crew couldnt organize a 3 car parade and have it done on time or within budget.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 24, 2018 6:57:48 AM

Trump's Russia-gate scandal is just unfolding. In my veiw it will ultimately equal if note surpass Watergate.. I have no doubt that the evidence will show that he and his cronies conspired with Russia to accept Russia's help in winning the election in return for lifting of sanctions. I also have no doubt that Russia has been black-mailing Trump by threatening to release docuements showing his and his children's laundering of dirty Russian money. There may also be photos of Trump or his son in sexually compromising positions with Russian prostitutes. In short, Russia has had him by the gonads, and we continue to pay the price.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Feb 24, 2018 11:08:00 AM

Seriously?? The comments in this thread sounds like they are coming out of the Twilight Zone than by ostensibly learned legal boffs. Considering that most of the "evidence" seems to have emanated from the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the 2016 election, including the staffing of the FBI and DOJ with individuals in place to PREVENT, not PEVERSE, such investigation to take place, in the event Hillary Clinton were elected. The fact that it was Donald Trump severely upended their plans, and suddenly exposed themselves to some potentially damaging exposure. (Every Mueller staffer is a Democrat donor with absolute incentive to push their agenda more than anything else.)

The fact that the investigators themselves may have more culpability to actual criminal actions (actual crimes by Hillary Clinton, coverup by Obama, Lynch, Huma Abedin, etc.) than Trump did to being "blackmailed" is hilarious.

The bottom line: The investigation will continue throughout 2018, with one, and only ONE purpose: to flip the House, and if possible the Senate, to the Democratic Party, by discrediting Trump and the Republican Party. Key factor: Trump voters do not care if Trump kills someone on 5th Avenue, and Clinton voters do not care if she illegally kept confidential emails on private servers (and lied about them).

The Deep State, whether Democrat or Republican individuals are involved, is the real culprit. Once it takes root, the legal profession is over. Keep abreast.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Feb 24, 2018 12:44:47 PM

The deep state and its adversaries are all lawyers. All conflict generates legal salaries. They can switch sides if that step would generate even more employment.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 24, 2018 2:50:40 PM

Former Nixon aide John Dean asserted over the weekend that former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates could bring down Donald Trump’s entire presidency. In a tweet on Saturday, Dean explained why Gates’ testimony against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also puts the president in peril.

“Mueller is throwing everything he can against Manafort, including Gates who can nail him,” Dean wrote. “Increasingly it appears Manafort is the link to Russian collusion.” “If Gates can testify that Manafort was acting with Trump’s blessings, it’s the end of his presidency,” he added. “That’s substantial.”

Posted by: Houdini | Feb 26, 2018 11:04:30 AM

You don't have to be a Houdini to recognize that Trump will be unable to escape from Mueller's snare.

Posted by: Mary contrary | Feb 26, 2018 2:18:59 PM

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