They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

On Saturday, protesters denounced a plan by a gun manufacturer to make Kalashnikov-branded AK-47s at a facility in Pompano Beach, Florida — about 14 miles from the site of the Parkland school shooting.

“I could discuss the morals of it, I could tell you I’m disgusted, but you know you’re disgusting,” shooting survivor Cameron Kasky said ahead of the protest.

But a closer look at the gunmaker, Kalashnikov USA, and its quest to set up a Florida facility reveals a far stranger story, and one that’s perhaps more troubling still.

Kalashnikov USA first announced its plan to make AK-47s in the U.S. — using the slogan “Russian Innovation, American Heritage” — as a way to get around sanctions, which forced it to stop importing the weapons from a Russian gunmaker with whom it had close ties. But it wouldn’t say where it was making the weapons. Then, to lure the company to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration pledged to give the firm $162,000 in tax breaks, but the tax deal fell through when the gunmaker failed to provide the required paperwork. Despite a string of announcements that Kalashnikov USA would soon start cranking out AK-47s in Pompano Beach, it’s not clear that it has ever made any AK-47s at all. And when a TPM reporter called to ask questions, a company official hung up on him.

Kalashnikov USA isn’t the only gun company that Scott has rolled out the red carpet for. The number of gun manufacturers in the state has ballooned from 232 when Scott took office in 2011 to 764 today, according to statistics from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — a slightly higher rate than the one at which it has increased nationwide. In 2011, Scott personally announced that he had promised gunmaker Colt a tax break deal of its own, this one worth $1.6m, to relocate 63 jobs to Kissimmee, Fla. And in 2015, Scott’s office touted job growth at another Florida company, Azimuth Technologies, which makes parts for AR-15s, as evidence that Florida’s elimination of taxes on manufacturing equipment had brought work to the state.

Scott’s support for the gun industry has come under scrutiny in the wake of the deadly massacre, for which Nikolas Cruz used a version of an AR-15 rifle. In response to widespread outrage over the shooting, Scott, who is expected to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) this fall, has proposed new gun safety measures, including raising the age limit for buying an assault rifle to 21 and making it harder for mentally ill people to get weapons.

At a CNN town hall last Wednesday, Nelson sought to make hay out of the Kalashnikov USA tax deal.

“Did you know that the state of Florida, the governor’s office, gave financial incentives for them to come into the state and manufacture?” Nelson asked.

But Kalashnikov USA’s efforts to find a way around the U.S. sanctions on Russia raise further questions about its presence in Florida.

The Obama administration’s 2014 sanctions, imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, created a problem for a Pennsylvania-based company called RWC. Since 2012, RWC  — it stood for Russians Weapons Company — had been the exclusive importer and distributor of Kalashnikov guns. Now, it was forbidden from doing business with Moscow-based Kalashnikov Concern, which has been described as its parent company. 

As TPM has reported, the National Rifle Association raised concerns at the time about the ban on Kalashnikov Concern doing business in the U.S., warning that the Obama administration might be “using a geopolitical crisis as a convenient excuse to advance the president’s domestic anti-gun agenda.”

Designed in the 1940s by a Red Army engineer, the AK-47’s low cost and reliability have made it and its variants the world’s most ubiquitous weapon. While many companies, including American manufacturers, make their own versions of the weapon, the original is coveted by collectors.

At the January 2015 SHOT show, a Las Vegas gun-industry conference, RWC announced a work-around in response to the sanctions: It told CNN Money’s Aaron Smith that it would cut ties with Kalashnikov Concern and start making AK-47s in the U.S, rebranding itself as Kalashnikov USA. The plan was legal, RWC said, as long as the company had no contact with Kalashnikov Concern.

“We are not permitted to pick up the phone and to talk to them,” RWC’s then-CEO Thomas McCrossin told CNN. “We were forced to stop doing business with them because of the sanctions.”

Erich Ferrari, a Washington D. C. attorney who specializes in sanctions law, said if Kalashnikov USA truly didn’t communicate with Kalashnikov Concern in producing its guns, that “may obviate the sanctions concern.” But Ferrari said the two companies would need to have had a pre-existing deal in place that covered major changes in the relationship, like converting from an importer to a manufacturer with no discussion of compensation and use of the storied Kalashnikov brand.

Yelena Kalashnikov, the daughter of the rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, said in response to RWC’s 2015 announcement that she was “bewildered,” by the plan, suggesting they were “us[ing] what doesn’t belong to them.” But the company itself said it had no objection.

In any event, in June 2015, Kalashnikov USA told CNN Money’s Smith that its American-made AK-47s were now available for purchase, though it wouldn’t say where its factory was located. The company used the slogan: “Russian heritage, American innovation.”

And four months later, Scott’s DEO inked a deal with Kalashnikov USA, in which it promised the firm a tax refund deal worth $162,000 if it relocated from RWC’s Pennsylvania headquarters to Broward County and created at least 54 jobs. That short-lived deal was first reported last week by the Florida Bulldog, an independent investigative news site.

Scott’s office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the Kalashnikov USA deal. But Tiffany Vause, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, told TPM that the tax deal was terminated when RWC failed to provide the necessary paperwork.

“Our due diligence was conducted on the RWC Group, LLC which is an American company,” Vause said. “The contract that all companies must sign specifically states that they must comply with all federal and state laws. Additionally, the City of Pompano Beach and Broward County adopted resolutions and committed financial support for this project.”

Kalashnikov USA appears to have decided to move to Florida anyway. At the January 2016 SHOT show, it told CNN Money’s Smith and another CNN Money reporter that it was readying its Florida factory. The guns would be available “soon,” CNN Money reported.

A year later, the company returned to the SHOT show, where CEO Brian Skinner promised Smith that the gun was coming the following month. 

But according to a local report this week on the protest, the opening of the Pompano Beach facility is still be held up while the company negotiates with the city.

In calls to three authorized dealers listed on Kalashnikov USA’s web page, TPM could not find a dealer who had sold one. On the company’s Instagram page, fed-up gun enthusiasts posted annoyed comments under a picture of the rifle from last month.

“Sooo is it finally going into production?” wrote one.

“Where are your AK-47s!?” asked another. 

Kalashnikov USA didn’t respond to repeated requests from TPM to comment. Evrold Henry, who signed the company’s application for the Florida tax abatements, declined to say whether the company had made any AK-47s or had the rights to do so, then hung up. No one at the company answered emails. One salesman referred TPM to Anastasia Bokareva, who he described as a business manager for the company. Bokareva did not respond to voicemails or email.

A clerk at the Pompano Beach Office of Business and Tax Receipt said the Kalashnikov USA facility has licenses for firearms sale, assembly, import-export, and manufacture. The clerk said she did not know whether the facility actually manufactured guns or simply converted them in accordance with import laws.

“We go by whatever they put on the application,” she said.

Scott’s recent announcement of his support for several gun control measures was a shift in course. Until now, Scott has lined up staunchly behind the NRA, which gives him an A+ rating. He has championed the state’s “stand your ground” law, hobbled efforts to improve background checks, and reduced the cost of a concealed carry license. Scott also signed a law preventing doctors from asking their patients if they had access to a weapon.

“Governor Scott has stood strong to protect your right of self-defense,” NRA mailers sent to voters during Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign said. “This election is our chance to make sure it stays that way.”

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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the new federal grand jury indictment against in Washington, D.C., and the judge set a trial date in the case of Sept. 17.

This was Manafort’s first appearance since his longtime deputy, former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, pleaded guilty. Soon after Gates entered his guilty plea — to two counts of false statements and U.S. conspiracy against the U.S. — on Friday, Mueller revealed the new indictment, known as a superseding indictment, against Manafort.

At the hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson scolded Manafort for the statement his spokesperson released on his behalf after Gates’ guilty plea last week.

There is currently an order prohibiting statements to the press from both sides in the case.

“I can understand the impulse,” Jackson said, to release such a statement, but she noted that when she imposed the gag order neither side objected to it. She said she was not going to take action this time, but in future for such statements she would.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing indicated that he intended to file a motion challenging the judge’s interpretation of a court case cited in her gag order.

“I am happy to read anything you file,” Jackson said.

In addition to the charges that have been filed in D.C., Manafort faces charges in the Eastern District of Virginia. (Prosecutors have asked the court in Virginia to drop the charges against Gates, presumably in light of his plea deal with Mueller.)

In the D.C. case, the new indictment charged Manafort with five counts including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent and false statements.

So far, it looks like the cases against Manafort brought in Washington, D.C. and the new indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia will remain separate for now. Judge Jackson asked the lawyers present at court Wednesday whether they are considering combining the cases, which do have some overlap in evidence. The charges in the new indictment in Virginia include false statements on tax returns, failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts, and bank fraud.

Prosecutors don’t have venue to bring all the Virginia charges in nearby DC, and Manafort has refused to waive his venue objection. Greg Andres, a lawyer for Mueller’s team, told the judge that Manafort’s lawyers were not keen on combining the cases. Jackson noted that having two separate cases with overlapping evidence would have the greatest burden on the defense and told Manafort’s lawyers that it was up to them how they would proceed.

Corrected: This story has been corrected to reflect that Paul Manafort — not Special Counsel Bob Mueller — faces charges in Virginia.



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The Oath Keepers militia group on Monday issued an official “call to action” asking their members to serve as voluntary armed guards at U.S. schools, in order to intervene in the event of a mass shooting.

But the group doesn’t seem to think much of some of the students they say they want to protect.

During a meandering Monday night webinar held by the far-right, anti-government group, the gun writer David Codrea referred to Emma González and David Hogg, survivors of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida as “the enemy.”

González and Hogg have been at the forefront of a student activist movement urging Congress to pass gun control legislation.

Codrea, a writer for the Oath Keepers and War on Guns blogs, also said that Gonzalez’s father is a “refugee from Castro’s Cuba,” and lamented that the National Rifle’s Association 595,000 Twitter followers paled in comparison to the one million that follow “this young Communist girl.”

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who hosted the webinar, suggested that law enforcement may have deliberately ignored multiple tips about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, in order to allow a massacre that could pave the way for gun control.

“It was a conspiracy to intentionally leave our children exposed to mass murder,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes and other speakers also talked about the group’s effort to station armed Oath Keepers volunteers, who are military and police veterans, at schools across the U.S., “whether they want us to or not,” as Rhodes put it at the start of the webinar.

Rhodes spoke to TPM about that idea Monday.

Another speaker on the webinar, Matt Bracken, said that sending armed guards to schools, “if handled right, could be very good PR” for the group. Bracken is the author of several books promoting gun rights, including “Enemies: Foreign and Domestic,” “Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista” and “Foreign Enemies and Traitors.”

So far, only Indiana member Marc Cowan appears to have taken up the call to arms, stationing himself since Friday on the perimeter of Fort Wayne’s North Side High School’s campus with an AR-15 and handgun.

The Fort Wayne school district said they don’t think the presence of armed volunteers like Cowan makes their students any safer.

The online session, which went on for almost two hours, was marred by technological glitches. Bracken’s video stream was the only one visible. Codrea chose to remain off camera because he’d been stricken by pneumonia, and as a result, he said, had been in a robe all day.

The conversation focused less on operational details for members, and more on denunciations of what Codrea called the “Leni Riefenstahls” in the media, bent on manipulating the national conversation on guns.

“When are citizens going to enforce our constitution?” one participant asked in a chat on the sidebar.

“We should be all the time, that is up to all of us!” replied the Oath Keepers’ moderator.

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The same day the Missouri House launched an investigation into indicted Gov. Eric Greitens (R), St. Louis prosecutors suggested that he may face additional charges.

The seven-person House panel formally convened on Monday is composed of five Republicans and two Democrats and will look only at the allegations in the indictment filed by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Greitens was charged with felony invasion of privacy Thursday for taking a photograph of a partly nude woman he was sleeping with and threatening to leak it if she went public about their extramarital relationship. The alleged incident occurred before he was elected governor.

“Our focus is going to be on the underlying facts of the indictment and the circumstances surrounding them,” Rep. Jay Barnes (R), chair of the committee, said in a press conference, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

But in an undocketed court hearing the same afternoon, lawyers for the city and for the governor got into a contentious exchange over the hearing date and the possibility that Greitens may face additional charges unrelated to the alleged March 2015 blackmail incident.

As the Post Dispatch reported, Gardner and her first assistant, Robert Steele, said that their investigation was ongoing and could touch on matters unrelated to the invasion of privacy charge. They did not specify what those could be, but said prosecutors were forced to indict Greitens last week because the three-year statute of limitations was due to run out.

Greitens’ attorneys countered that prosecutors were trying to drag out the embarrassing public investigation and that they want a quick jury trial to begin by the end of April at the latest, per the newspaper.

Greitens’ team previously filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying the statute applied to peeping toms rather than adults engaging in a consensual sexual encounter. In an audio recording secretly made by her then-husband, the woman said she did not consent to being photographed nude by Greitens.

The governor seems intent on ignoring the political storm as the House and city probes continue. Greitens released a statement last week calling the indictment a “misguided political decision” initiated by a “reckless liberal prosecutor.” On Monday, he visited with families whose houses were destroyed in a tornado over the weekend.

At the Missouri Capitol, over a dozen Republicans have called for Greitens to step down in the wake of his indictment, saying the investigations were a huge distraction from their legislative work. Others say they want to reserve judgment until the probes are complete.

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From the way that Democratic state election officials have rushed to praise a federal elections agency commissioner who is being passed over for another term, you wouldn’t know that the commissioner originally was a Republican appointee.

But Speaker Paul Ryan’s apparent decision not to extend Matt Masterson’s tenure at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has been met with disappointment and outright anxiety from state election officials who worked with Masterson on a regular basis.

Masterson’s likely departure comes at a time when issues of cyber-security — issues that Masterson has made a focus of his work — are emerging as a top priority for the commission.

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Imagine if every school campus in the United States had its own volunteer security officer: a former police officer or military veteran equipped with an assault rifle.

That’s the dream of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

In the wake of the February 14 massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school, Rhodes is calling on members of his far-right anti-government militia group to serve as unpaid and unaccountable armed school guards — whether teachers and students like the idea or not.

One Indiana Oath Keeper has already deployed to a local school, even though the school district says there’s no need for him to be there.

Rhodes wants the military and police veterans who make up Oath Keepers’ membership to volunteer for unpaid, rotating shifts at schools of all levels, and colleges, throughout the country. He and two other representatives of the fringe militia community will hold a webinar Monday night where they plan to encourage Oath Keepers to station themselves at schools “to protect the children against mass murder, and to help train the teachers and staff.”

“I think it’s essential,” Rhodes told TPM in a Monday phone call. “It’s part of our responsibility to do what we can.”

“And what we can do is be outside of schools so that we’re closer if an attack happens, or when one happens,” Rhodes continued. “We’ll be there to be a fast response.”

Oath Keepers came to prominence as part of the surge of right-wing extremism that marked the early years of the Obama administration. At the group’s core are efforts to stoke fear around outlandish conspiracy theories — that the federal government will disarm all citizens, impose martial law, and round Americans up into detention camps, among other scenarios.

Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, has referred to Hillary Clinton as “Herr Hitlery,” and “the dominatrix-in-chief,” and has said John McCain should be tried for treason and then “hung by the neck until dead.”

The group’s push for vigilante school security officers comes in the midst of a fraught national debate over how to curb school shootings like the one in Parkland that left 14 students and 3 staffers dead. President Donald Trump, the NRA and some GOP lawmakers all have suggested arming teachers who have firearms training, as a way to deter would-be school shooters — an idea Rhodes said he supports. But since training teachers will take time, he argues, it makes sense to use Oath Keepers volunteers in the interim.

The National Association of School Resource Officers and many school shooting survivors, including those from Parkland, strenuously oppose plans to arm teachers. Teachers may not feel safe wielding arms; students could get ahold of the weapons or get caught in crossfire; law enforcement could mistake an armed teacher or other non-uniformed school staffer for an assailant. The prospect of something going wrong seems even higher with non-vetted, non-professional members of a conspiratorial militia group volunteering services that schools did not ask for.

Rhodes’ response? “Tough.”

“If they don’t like it, too bad,” Rhodes said. “We’re not there to make people feel warm and fuzzy; we’re there to stop murders.”

“What I tell our people is don’t ask for permission,” Rhodes continued. “Let ‘em know what you’re doing and be as friendly as you can. But this is the reality we’re in right now.”

“Most schools have this retarded no-guns policy,” Rhodes added, calling such measures, “‘Alice in Wonderland,’ upside-down thinking.”

To avoid confusion, members will be asked to wear a “long-range identifier” like a sash or orange vest, as well as a “close-range identifier” one that copycats cannot imitate, Rhodes said. Before showing up, they’ll be asked to provide police with copies of their drivers’ licenses, descriptions of their outfits and descriptions of their vehicles and license plates.

Mark Cowan, an Indiana-based member of the Oath Keepers and an Army veteran, has since Friday posted himself outside North Side High School in Fort Wayne, wearing an Oath Keepers baseball hat and carrying a handgun and an AR-15.

“If somebody comes to this school or another school where we’re at, that school shooter is going to know, we’re not going to play games,” Cowan told local station WPTA. “You come to kill our kids, you’re dead.”

In other interviews with local media, Cowan has said he is complying with state law by parking his car just off of school grounds, and that he plans to remain there until the school, which already has an armed resource officer, introduces additional safety measures.

Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said local schools had no need for armed volunteers like Cowan.

“We understand he has a right to be out there, but we do not believe it adds to the safety of our students,” Stockman said in a statement. “At North Side, as at all of our schools, we have security procedures in place. In addition, at North Side, we have armed police officers in the building every day.”

According to local news reports, Cowan was arrested last year in connection with a fight that involved his use of a deadly weapon, and pleaded guilty plea to a count of misdemeanor battery. He told WPTA that the incident involved his effort to protect two of his grandchildren, who were attacked by another man. The guilty plea does not prevent him from carrying a firearm under Indiana law.

TPM was not immediately able to reach Cowan. But Bryan Humes, a spokesperson for the Oath Keepers’ Indiana chapter, told TPM in a Monday phone call that Cowan is serving as “another set of eyes and ears” for North Side, which has some 1,800 students, and that other members of the group are interested in taking up similar posts.

“We’re just a little concerned that one officer, with the size of the building and the number of people, may not quite be adequate as far as being able to keep an eye on everything,” Humes said.

“He had a couple of students Friday come out from school during class and thank him for being out there,” Humes added. “He’s also had a couple of the local police and sheriff’s officers stop by and thank him for being out there.”

Captain Steve Stone of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department told TPM that Cowan notified him he would be stationed outside of North Side, and that he personally spread the message to the rest of the department. Stone declined to offer the department’s stance on the Oath Keepers’ presence, noting that Cowan is “not breaking the law.”

“I can’t speak on behalf of the department on the department’s view of having civilians like the Oath Keepers doing that, unfortunately,” Stone said, saying Sheriff David Gladieux was unavailable. “I can’t give you my personal opinion on whether it’s good or not.”

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In a letter to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the National Rifle Association pushed back on last month’s McClatchy report that the FBI is investigating whether the group illegally received money from a Russian government banker, Alexander Torshin.

“As the article itself makes clear (and as the author of the article has made clear to counsel for the NRA) the article refers to an investigation of Mr. Torshin, not of the NRA,” NRA general counsel John Frazer wrote in the February 15 letter to Wyden, in response to a request from Wyden for documents on the issue.

“There has been no contact between the FBI and the NRA,” Frazer added.

McClatchy had reported that the FBI was probing whether Torshin, a Putin ally and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, had “illegally funneled money to the NRA to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”

Wyden’s office provided the NRA’s letter to TPM Friday.

“Senator Wyden is reviewing the NRA’s response and considering additional follow-up questions,” a Wyden aide told TPM.

“As a longstanding policy to comply with federal election law, the NRA and its related entities do not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections,” Frazer continued. “The vast majority of NRA donations come from millions of small individual donors. Contributions are carefully monitored in order to comply with Internal Revenue Services and Federal Election Commission regulations. Significant contributions from unknown entities are vetted to ensure the legitimacy of donors.”

Torshin and Right to Bear Arms, which lists a who’s who of right-wing Russian politicians among its members, has maintained years-long relationships with multiple consecutive NRA presidents, plying them with gifts, speaking engagements and trips to Russia.

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On the heels of revealing a new set of charges filed in Virginia against Paul Manafort and securing a plea deal from Manafort’s longtime business partner Rick Gates, Special Counsel Bob Mueller on Friday filed a new indictment — known as a superseding indictment — against Manafort that his grand jury in Washington, D.C. approved.

The new indictment contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

Much of the new indictment tracks with the charges that were brought in Virginia, as well as with the counts outlined in the plea deal that Gates agreed to Friday.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort, with assistance from Gates, hid tens of millions of dollars they made lobbying Ukraine, to avoid paying taxes on it, according to the new indictment. The indictment reiterates allegations that Manafort failed to disclose, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the lobbying campaign he led in the U.S. on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party he was advising.

The new indictment goes into more detail about a 2012 report Manafort spearheaded to justify the prosecution of a political rival of the Ukrainian politician Manafort represented; it references an unnamed law firm that Manafort recruited to write the reported, as well as a PR company, dubbed “Company C” that assisted with the rollout.

The law firm, it’s been reported, is Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. A lawyer from that firm this week pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s team about his conversations with Gates.

The indictment also details a part of an alleged lobbying scheme that previously had been referenced in the filings related to Gates’ plea deal. Prosecutors allege that Manafort assembled and paid, via his offshore accounts, a group of former European politicians to “informally” lobby on Ukraine’s behalf but “without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine,” quoting a memo that Manafort is said to have written in 2012.

The group was informally called the “Hapsburg group” and Manafort allegedly used four offshore accounts to pay the former politicians 2 million euros.


The indictment was handed down by a grand jury last week, but only unsealed Friday. In the motion to unseal it Friday afternoon, Mueller said that “the cause for sealing the indictment” had become “moot.” U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson approved of its unsealing quickly after the unsealing motion because public Friday.

Earlier Friday, Gates entered a guilty plea to two counts brought by Mueller: conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to federal authorities. As part of his plea agreement, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. The plea agreement said that Gates “agrees to testify at any proceeding” as requested by Mueller.

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Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Trump, pleaded guilty to two counts  — conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to federal authorities — in a federal courtroom Friday at a hearing that suggested Special Counsel Robert Mueller was expecting months of cooperation from Gates as part of the plea deal.

At the hearing, Andrew Weissmann, one of the attorneys representing the special counsel’s office, said that they would prefer not to set a sentencing date for Gates yet, and were seeking a status conference in three to four months instead. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a deadline for a status report for May 14.

The conviction of Gates is part of Mueller’s Russia probe. Gates — along with his longtime business partner, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort —had first been indicted by Mueller in Octoberin Washington, and a second indictment against them in Virginia became public on Thursday.  Manafort, in a statement Friday via his spokesman, said he was maintaining his innocence.

At Gates’ plea hearing, the judge floated that the sentencing guidelines would likely recommend Gates serve between 57 and 71 months in prison, and pay a $20,000 to $200,000 fine. Jackson cautioned, however, that she may ultimately stray from those recommendations.

That estimated sentence also did not reflect whatever cooperation Gates offers Mueller’s team. Weissmann confirmed that the government had agreed to consider filing a motion at the time of sentencing based on Gates’ level of cooperation.

Additionally, Gates’ lawyer Tom Green indicated that they were reserving the right to argue that the sentence be less because of the “disproportionate conduct” between Manafort and Gates.

A copy of the plea agreement handed out to reporters at the courthouse said that Gates “shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” with Mueller. That cooperation includes the potential that Gates would testify at proceedings at Mueller’s request.

At the hearing Weissmann, along with another member of Mueller’s team, Greg Andres walked through a statement of offense that was among the documents given to reporters after the hearing. (A third Mueller team attorney, Kyle Freeny, was also present.)

The statement of offense said that Gates assisted Manafort in wiring “millions of dollars” from offshore accounts for goods, services and real eastate without Manafort paying taxes on it. Gates “repeatedly misled” Manafort’s tax accountants with Manafort’s knowledge, according to the statement of offense. The document also outlined Gates’ involvement in a lobbying campaign for Ukraine in the U.S. that he failed to properly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

According to the document, the false statement count stemmed from a February 1, 2018 proffer session between Gates, his attorney and the special counsel’s office. (At the hearing, Gates confirmed that his original team of lawyers, who were only allowed to withdraw from his representation Thursday, were not involved in the plea negotiations.)

Gates misled authorities during the interview by telling them that he had been told that Manafort, an unnamed lobbyist and an unnamed member of Congress did not discuss Ukraine at a March 2013 meeting, according to the document. Green, at the hearing, stressed that Gates did not know what had been discussed, and that the misrepresentation he was admitting to was saying that he had been told Ukraine wasn’t discussed.

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Buried in the plea agreement documents released Friday for former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was one remarkable detail. Just this month, Gates lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and to the FBI about what transpired during a spring 2013 meeting held by his longtime boss and fellow Trump campaign veteran Paul Manafort.

Per the court filing, Gates on Feb. 1 knowingly and falsely testified that “there were no discussions of Ukraine” at a March 19, 2013 meeting between Manafort, “a senior Company A lobbyist,” and “a Member of Congress.”

Though the document does not name the other two participants, their identities can be pieced together from contemporaneous news reports and recent filings with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The member of Congress appears have been Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), jokingly nicknamed “Putin’s favorite congressman” for his strong pro-Russia stance. Manafort’s June 2017 FARA filing– which acknowledges that his firm, DMP International, LLC, conducted millions of dollars in business with the pro-Russia Ukrainian Party of Regions –notes that he met with Rohrabacher on that day. Three days later, Manafort donated $1,000 to Rohrabacher’s congressional campaign.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., speaks during a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. 9, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The lobbyist appears to have been Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman who now works for Mercury Public Affairs, a global PR giant. The meeting between the trio was disclosed on Mercury’s own retroactive FARA filing, submitted in April of last year.

Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota at his Washington office, April 16, 1992.(AP PHOTO)

Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota at his Washington office, April 16, 1992.(AP Photo)

Exactly what was discussed at the meeting was not clear from the court documents, but they say that Gates helped Manafort prepare “a report that memorialized for Ukraine leadership the pertinent Ukraine discussions that Manafort represented had taken place at the meeting.”


In this photo taken July 17, 2016 photo, Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

We also still don’t yet why Gates lied under oath about his knowledge of the meeting months after Mueller first indicted him and Manafort on a series of financial crimes charges. As TPM reported, the timing suggests that Gates lied in the course of plea discussions with Mueller’s team. Gates’ three attorneys moved to withdraw from the case the same day.

Gates pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement and one count of conspiracy against the United States on Friday afternoon.

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