On Friday, a new batch of documents recording the interviews former special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors held with aides to President Donald Trump was released, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed News.
One of the revelations in the interviews with Rick Gates, who served as an aide to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was that Manafort began pushing conspiracy theories about Ukraine at the same time that the Russian hack into the Democratic National Committee became publicly known.
“Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner who served as deputy campaign chair to Trump, told investigators during an April 10, 2018, interview that after it was revealed that the Democratic National Committee’s computer server had been compromised, Manafort began pushing the idea that Ukraine had orchestrated the hack,” wrote reporter Jason Leopold. “That unfounded conspiracy theory persisted in right-wing circles long after the US intelligence community concluded Russia was in fact responsible. Indeed, during the July 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that eventually provoked Trump’s impeachment, he asked Zelensky to help investigate the Ukraine hack theory.”
Gates was ultimately sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years’ probation for false statements and conspiracy against the United States. Manafort was sentenced to seven and a half years for bank fraud and tax evasion, although he was recently removed to home confinement due to the risk of COVID-19 in federal facilities.