In a Tuesday night court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office revealed that it has linked a Trump campaign official who is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation to a person who “has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”
According to Mueller’s office, Rick Gates — a longtime associate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — was “directly communicating” with a “Person A” who Gates identified to associates as “a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.” Those contacts occurred “in September and October 2016” and are “pertinent to the investigation.”
A GRU agent is believed to be responsible for hacking Democratic National Committee emails that were published by WikiLeaks. According to a recent Daily Beast report, Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for supply WikiLeaks with the emails, “was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU)… an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.” In its declassified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Director of National Intelligence assessed “with high confidence” that the GRU “used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.” Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone exchanged Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0 during the 2016 campaign.
During the same months Gates with allegedly in touch with the former GRU officer, Trump was exploiting the stolen emails on the campaign trail. The future president mentioned WikiLeaks 164 times during the month of October 2016 alone — but then preposterously claimed after the election that WikiLeaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
WikiLeaks published a batch of emails stolen from former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta on October 7, 2016 — just hours after the Washington Post published hot mic audio of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, and days after WikiLeaks sent Donald Trump Jr. a decryption key and website address for hacked documents in a Twitter direct message exchange.
The court filing detailing Gates’ connection with the former GRU officer pertains to the upcoming sentencing of Alex Van Der Zwaan, a Dutch attorney who worked with Gates and Manafort. Last month, Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates and Person A.
Manafort and Gates have been charged with laundering about $30 million and working as unregistered foreign agents for Ukraine. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller, and it is possible that more will become known about the specific nature of his communications with the former GRU agent as a result.
Though Trump has tried to spin Manafort and Gates’ alleged criminal conduct as happening “years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” recent court filings indicate Gates was lying about his foreign bank accounts as recently as October 2017.
Trump has repeatedly denied any connection with Russia, but a recent report by The Moscow Project detailed 70 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives, including at least 22 meetings — and none of them were reported to the proper authorities.