Who is Rick Gates? The Trump adviser busted with Manafort.

In what was a surprise to exactly nobody, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was the lucky winner in Monday morning’s game of “Who is Special Counselor Robert Mueller Going to Indict First?” What was less expected was that Rick Gates was indicted alongside Mueller. Which begs the big question: Who the hell is Rick Gates?

Gates, who worked for the administration as well as on the Trump inaugural ceremony, is often described as Manafort’s “protégé.” Look closely enough at any picture of Manafort from the past several years, and you’ll likely spot Gates lurking in the background.  In June, The New York Times ran a story on Gates in which they detailed how the two seemed to be joined at the hip, whether they were working on an election campaign in Eastern Europe or cooking up some business ideas with a Russian tycoon:

Mr. Gates survived Mr. Manafort’s purge last summer amid allegations that his mentor had taken millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, retaining a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee. But Mr. Gates, 45, soon followed in Mr. Manafort’s footsteps once again: In April, amid new questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, he was abruptly forced out of a lobbying group formed to advance President Trump’s agenda.

Now, Mr. Gates has been drawn into the burgeoning federal investigations into diplomatic and financial dealings between Russian interests and the president’s inner circle. In a newly disclosed memo, a lawyer for the Trump campaign ordered members of the president’s transition team to preserve records relating to five Trump associates, among them Mr. Manafort — already known to be a subject of the investigation — and Mr. Gates. The memo indicates that transition lawyers believe Mr. Gates’s actions are under scrutiny by the Justice Department or the House or Senate Intelligence Committees — or soon will be.

Manafort and Gates have known each other for nearly three decades; they met when Gates was an intern at Manafort’s D.C. consulting firm, Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly. Though Manafort left the firm that same year, Gates began working closely with Republican lobbyist Rick Davis, who would reconnect the two possible cellmates in 2006, when Gates began working for Manafort and Davis’s new firm, Davis Manafort. With an office in Kiev, the company worked to rebrand the image of Viktor Yanukovych, who served as the 4th president of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014, when he was ousted from the position and exiled to Russia. It was Gates who ended up running that office when Davis left to manage John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“Rick was Paul’s business guy,” said Democratic political consultant Tad Devine, who worked with the firm on those Ukraine campaigns, and who told the Times that it was working with Yanukovych that gave Manafort Davis an in to do business in Ukraine. For Gates, it was apparently all about following the leader (a.k.a. Manafort) and learning to value cold hard cash and the things it could buy you over having a soul. Which is what brought them to Donald Trump

According to ABC News:

Gates followed Manafort to the Trump campaign, taking the helm of the campaign’s operations for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Gates was also reportedly the man who signed off on Melania Trump’s RNC speech that appeared to plagiarize parts of former first lady Michelle Obama’s speech to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

But while Manafort left the campaign in late August 2016, facing mounting questions about his political consulting in Ukraine, Gates remained on.

After Trump won the White House, Gates became close with Trump’s friend Tom Barrack, who was tapped to lead the Presidential Inauguration Committee. Gates became the No. 2 man in charge of planning Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January.

Once Trump was in the White House, Gates joined the 501 c (4) organization America First Policies, aimed at pushing Trump’s agenda.

Shortly thereafter, this whole pesky Russia thing started, and Gates’s name began popping up alongside his mentor’s.

When asked about his ties to Manafort and the Russia investigation by Times reporters Nicholas Confessore and Barry Meier in June, Gates claimed that the FBI had not been in touch with him. In other interviews conducted around the same time, Gates basically said any allegations against him and his brah were #fakenews, stating that all of their business dealings were done “legally and with the approval of our lawyers. Nothing to my knowledge was ever done inappropriately.”

Yet when FBI agents conducted a predawn raid on Manafort’s home on July 26, 2017, with no warning, there was no indication that Gates’s slumber was interrupted. But it’s a good thing the two have become close, as they could likely be sharing a jail cell in the near future if they’re unsuccessful in disproving the dozen charges Mueller’s office has filed against them — including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Buckle up, boys.

[Photo: AP]