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February 18, 2018

Report that Mueller probe will soon produce another notable conviction and federal sentencing

A couple of month ago, as reported in this post, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller produced its first federal conviction when Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.   Now the Los Angeles Times is reporting here that another plea and another notable plea deal is in the works for another figure indicted by Mueller's team. Here are some of the basics (along with some sentencing details and a reminder of how economic issues can impact a defendant's decision-making):

A former top aide to Donald Trump's presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days — and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump's former deputy campaign manager Richard Gates, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort's, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case. "Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty," said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington "within the next few days."

That individual and others who discussed the matter spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a judge's gag order restricting comments about the case to the news media or public. Gates' defense lawyer, Thomas C. Green, did not respond to messages left by phone and email. Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, declined on Saturday to comment....

The imminent change of Gates' plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller's prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.

According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect "a substantial reduction in his sentence'' if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said Gates is likely to serve about 18 months in prison.

The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates "understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates, but it won't be spelled out."

One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables — derived from Gates' allegedly illegal activity — that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.

Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense. "He can't afford to pay it," said one lawyer who is involved with the investigation. "If you go to trial on this, that's $1 million to $1.5 million. Maybe more, if you need experts" to appear as witnesses.

The Oct. 27 indictment showed that prosecutors had amassed substantial documentation to buttress their charges that Manafort and Gates — who were colleagues in political consulting for about a decade — had engaged in a complex series of allegedly illegal transactions rooted in Ukraine. The indictment alleged that both men, who for years were unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government, hid millions of dollars of Ukraine-based payments from U.S. authorities.

In this post after the Rick Gates was indicted along with Paul Manifort, I briefly sketched how guideline calculations could push their possible benchmark sentencing ranges into many years and even decades. Given these realities, I will be very interested to see if and how a plea deal for Gates might set out guideline calculations. As the press report suggests, Gates could and seemingly will be getting his sentence significantly reduced via 5K1.1 of the federal sentencing guidelines by providing "substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense."   One cannot help but wonder is any person other than Manifort could be the subject of Gates' assistance to federal authorities.

February 18, 2018 at 10:33 PM | Permalink


Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now

Thomas L. Friedman FEB. 18, 2018
Our democracy is in serious danger.
President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.
That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.
In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.
Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”
At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller — leveraging several years of intelligence gathering by the F.B.I., C.I.A and N.S.A. — has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.
What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.
What we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions — and exploiting the terrible school shooting in Florida — and the failure of the F.B.I. to properly forward to its Miami field office a tip on the killer — to throw the entire F.B.I. under the bus and create a new excuse to shut down the Mueller investigation.
Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?
It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.
Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyberdefense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.
Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin —just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.
My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump, Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.
But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.
That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

Posted by: anon2 | Feb 19, 2018 2:11:24 AM

The biggest threat to our democracy today are "useful idiots" like anon2, the Clinton News Network, the New York Slimes and the Washington Compost, followed by Bill Otis's beloved DOJ and FIB.

Posted by: albeed | Feb 19, 2018 9:09:29 AM

We all commit 3 felonies a day. So any prosecutor can put us away for a long time if he decides to.

My response would be to do e-discovery on all prosecution electronic devices, to seek bias. If denied by the judge, move for discovery on the judge's electronic devices. Refer all child porn on these devices to the FBI.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 19, 2018 11:25:18 AM

anon2 cannot be a lawyer. Friedman does not understand the pretextual, political attack nature of the Mueller investigation. Nor does he understand its threat to the constitution. Democrats want to overturn the result of a valid election. That is the bottom line, and their insurrection against the constitution.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 19, 2018 11:28:04 AM

Mr. Behar, according to the following article, after barely one year, Trump has the singular achievement of being rated the worst President in history--the good news, I suppose, is that he can only go up.

"Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan are up, Bill Clinton is down and Donald Trump is off to a historically bad start — and the greats, meanwhile, remain the greats.
That was the finding of the 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey, released Monday by professors Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston and Justin S. Vaughn of Boise State University. The survey results, ranking American presidents from best to worst, were based on responses from 170 current and recent members of the Presidents and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association.
Obama moved from 18th in 2014, when the survey was last conducted, to 8th in the current survey. Reagan jumped from 11th to 9th. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, fell from 8th to 13th — perhaps as a result of heightened attention to sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
Trump came in dead last.
The top seven remained unchanged, with Abraham Lincoln holding the top spot, followed in order by George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.
Even among self-identified Republicans and conservatives, Trump came in 40th out of 44 (while Trump is officially the 45th president, the survey did not count Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms separately, so the ranking runs from 1-44).
Franklin Roosevelt, the architect of the New Deal and the father of the modern Democratic Party, continues to enjoy high marks across the political spectrum. Reagan, on the other hand, who ushered in the modern era of small-government conservatism, receives high ranks from conservatives and Republicans but falls in the teens for Democrats and liberals. Obama sees the reverse.
Trump closely follows James Buchanan, America’s 15th president, who presided over the increasingly explosive national debate over slavery, and who saw the Union split apart after the election of his successor, Lincoln."

Posted by: Sam the prosecutor | Feb 19, 2018 3:24:31 PM

Sam. You are a little upset. Trump had the best first year of any President in history. His second year will usher in the explosive economic boom. There will be a massive labor shortage, and rapid wage inflation. Will laugh remembering calls for the $15 minimum. $3 trillion will return to our shores. Guess who will do best? Black males, as illegal aliens will not be able to take their jobs.

The ratings are by left wing historians. I bet they rate Lincoln at the top of the list. He was 2 orders of magnitude worse than any Carter or Obama. He needlessly killed 850,000 fellow Americans, and had race relations stay frozen for 100 years.

Suggestion for you Sam. Take some courses, and get a license to be a high school American History teacher. The criminals are going missing with the opioid overdose crisis. You will be able to chomp donuts, slurp coffee, and chat up the birds in your office close to full time.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 19, 2018 6:13:45 PM

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