Rick Gates visited White House and raised money for Trump long after Manafort forced out over Russia
President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime business partner Rick Gates surrendered to the FBI as part of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as an adviser but was promoted to campaign manager three months later, oversaw the Republican National Convention in July 2016 and was forced out a month later over his pro-Russia political work in Ukraine.
His home was raided by FBI agents in July seeking evidence of his financial ties to Russian oligarchs, and he was indicted Monday on tax fraud and other charges.
Longtime protégé Gates remained close to Trump after Manafort was ousted from the campaign, and he continued to visit the White House during the first two months of the administration.
Gates, who also worked with the same Russian oligarch who reportedly paid Manafort $10 million to promote Russian interests, led the outside group America First Policies to push Trump’s agenda until he was pushed out in March.
That organizational shakeup also pushed Brad Parscale, who ran the Trump campaign’s digital operation, into a reduced role instead of his originally planned position as president of the nonprofit.
Gates started working with Manafort in 2006, a year after the Republican strategist struck a deal with Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and Vladimir Putin ally.
Gates also worked with Deripaska, who has been denied entry to the U.S. over his alleged ties to organized crime, to support a private equity fund started by Manafort’s firm and “democracy building and party building in Ukraine.”
He also took part in at least two other recent deals involving Putin-connected oligarchs, including one that ended with Deripaska suing both Gates and Manafort.
The firm had pitched Deripaska on a $200 million private equity partnership focused on Russia and Ukraine, and the arrangement was set up in 2007 in the Cayman Islands, but the relationship had disintegrated by 2014, when Deripaska sued Manafort and Gates over $18.9 million in unaccounted funds intended for the purchase of a Ukrainian cable provider.
The pair then “simply disappeared” and stopped answering Deripaska’s requests to show how the money had been used or return it to the investor, according to the lawsuit.
A new trove of emails released earlier this month showed Manafort, who did not take a salary from the campaign, hoped to use his position with the Trump campaign to “get whole” with Deripaska.
There’s no evidence Manafort, who left in late August due to his ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, ever met with Deripaska during the campaign, but he did meet Aug. 2 with former business associate Konstantin Kilimnik in New York to discuss “unpaid bills” and “current news.”
Manafort and Gates were also named in a 2014 racketeering lawsuit involving Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash, who also has ties to Putin.
That suit, which was later dismissed, claimed Manafort and Gates helped Firtash launder ill-gotten gains as part of an $850 million deal to build luxury housing at the site of the Drake Hotel in New York City.
Firtash was indicted with five others in 2013 with paying $18.5 million in bribes to Indian officials so they could mine titanium and sell it to Boeing Corporation to build the 787 Dreamliner jet, and he’s currently fighting extradition to the U.S.
Manafort and Gates promoted the pro-Russian Party of Regions on behalf of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and introduced the pro-Yanukovych European Center for a Modern Ukraine to the lobbying firms Mercury LLC and the Podesta Group.
Both of those Washington-based lobbying firms hired outside investigators to determine whether they’d been misled by Gates.
Gates was named the Trump campaign’s liaison to the Republican National Committee just hours after Manafort quit his unpaid chairmanship in August over his alleged financial ties to Russia.
He left that role, in which he maintained offices at both the RNC and Trump Tower, two weeks later after former Citizens United head David Bossie — who is putting together a potential rival group to America First Policies — was named deputy campaign manager.
Gates was also blamed by campaign sources for Melania Trump’s RNC speech that included a plagiarized portion of a speech given by former first lady Michelle Obama, although he denies the claims.