Russia probe: Former Trump campaign aide pleads guilty

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Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) Rick Gates, a former official in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has pleaded guilty to charges of federal conspiracy and false statements in the ongoing Trump-Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Muller.

Gates, 45, of Richmond, Virginia, appeared at the federal courthouse in Washington for a plea agreement hearing on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to a court filing revealed earlier in the day, Gates pleaded to charges of conspiracy against the US and making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigators (FBI) investigators.

Gates’ plea comes a day after he and his longtime business associate, Paul Manafort, were indicted in Virginia on new charges of tax evasion and bank fraud. Manafort was the former Trump campaign chief, and Gates was a former campaign aide.

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The pair were accused of laundering $30 million, failing to pay taxes for nearly 10 years and using their real estate to fraudulently secure millions of dollars in loans, according to a 32-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Virginia on Thursday.

Thursday’s indictment was the second round of charges against Gates and Manafort, who were among the first to be charged, as part of a Mueller-led investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

They were charged last October with money laundering, conspiracy and other offences in a federal court in Washington. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

In a statement following Gates’ decision, Manafort said that he continues to maintain his “innocence” and Gates’ plea would not alter his commitment to defend himself against “the untrue piled up charges.”

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