Is Rick Gates getting ready to flip? All signs point to yes. CNN is reporting that Gates is finalizing a plea deal with Robert Mueller's office, a sign that he is willing to cooperate with the investigation.
CNN reports that he has been in "plea negotiations for about a month" and has had what is called a "Queen for a Day" interview. This is an open ended meeting with prosecutors where Gates would answer a litany of questions regarding his own case and any other criminal activity he "witnessed." That is the key - what he witnessed.
Wolf Blizter had a breaking news report about this:
Blitzer: We'll get back to all the breaking news in florida, including the stunning new time line of the shooter's movements during and after the school massacre, but there's another major breaking news development that's unfolding right now involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. I want to bring in CNN's Sara Murray with this exclusive new CNN reporting.
Murray: Well, Wolf, what we have been learning is that former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He appears poised to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. That's according to sources familiar with the case who spoken with my colleagues as well as myself. Back in October, Gates pleaded not guilty to financial crimes that were unrelated to the Presidential campaign but for about the past months, he has been in plea negotiations with Mueller's team and he's already been in to speak with Mueller's team about the case. Now, this is someone with a young family. He's a father of four. He is under financial pressure, and he was already facing more than ten years in prison if he were found guilty of existing charges if this case had gone to trial.
Blitzer: Dramatic and important development indeed. Sara, stand by. I also want to bring in our justice reporter. Plenty of Trump associates have met with Mueller so far. What makes this potentially very different.
Murray: This is similar to what happened with Michael Flynn. In this case, Gates took part in what criminal lawyers call a "queen for a day." This is an interview that occurs before attorneys at the special counsel's office and they basically go through a whole list of things that perhaps Gates was involved in. He answers questions from prosecutors about his own case, the Manafort case, and he also has to answer questions about other criminal activity. This is important. Other criminal activity that he may have witnessed, that he may have been part of. So, it essentially lays the groundwork for a cooperation agreement. Now, this comes as investigators have also been preparing to file new charges against Gates as well as Paul Manafort who, as we all remember, was the Trump campaign chairman and a -- he was also the -- a codefendant in this case with gates. Wolf, as you said, this would be a significant step in this investigation.
Blitzer: Very significant indeed if he's -- if he flips. What does this mean, Sara, for President* Trump?
Murray: Well, Wolf, that's a little bit murkier. This is certainly troubling news if you're Paul Manafort, that Gates has prepared to potentially tell Mueller everything about the criminal case that they are both involved in, but Gates cooperation could also be a building block for Mueller in a possible case against Trump or other key are not concerned about a potential plea deal in this case. They don't believe Mueller has any interest in Gates or Manafort's activities during the presidential campaign or during the transition. One White House official tells me, if Gates cooperates against Manafort, that's nothing to us. Although we are hearing from the President that he does feel personally sorry that Gates and Manafort have been dug into this legal mess as a result of the Russia investigation.
If a plea deal is finalized, we could know in the next few days. If the deal is really good (ie, a simple lying to FBI charge), it is a sign that he is a highly cooperative witness. Gates is currently facing 10 or more years on the charges already filed. If Mueller files even more, the sentence would go up.
Get your popcorn ready.