Mueller says Gates continues to cooperate

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s work does not appear to be done yet.

Mueller’s team and defense attorneys for former Trump campaign official Rick Gates updated the judge presiding over his case Tuesday, and yet again, Mueller is not ready to put his sentencing in motion.

Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time,” attorneys from both Gates’ legal team and special counsel’s office said in a one-page statement for the judge.

The lawyers involved asked for their next update to come in two months.

The delay again in Gates’ case suggests that Mueller’s team and other investigators in the Justice Department are not done yet with the investigations into the Trump campaign and inauguration, for which Gates is seen as a key witness.

Recent developments, including the preparation of a final report and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s expected impending departure, have led to speculation that the probe could be coming to an end. Mueller’s office has not commented on a timetable for the conclusion of its work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and related crimes stemming from that investigation.

Gates, a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty almost a year ago to a criminal charge of conspiracy related to his lobbying efforts with Manafort and a charge of lying to investigators.

The status report in Gates’ case also comes as Manafort sees his own criminal matter lurch to its finish.

It’s not yet clear what investigations Gates has contributed to, though his knowledge of Manafort’s dealings, the Trump campaign, President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and of his and Manafort’s longtime Russian colleague Konstantin Kilimnik — who now appears to be at the center of Mueller’s inquiry — may be unparalleled among cooperators from Trump’s political universe.

Previously, Manafort was suspected to be the star cooperator in the Russia probe. But after his plea deal fell apart when prosecutors accused him of lying, Gates’ usefulness increased.

If Gates provides significant help to Mueller’s team, they could ask the judge for leniency — possibly even no prison time — at his sentencing.

Unlike Gates, Manafort’s case is now moving toward sentencing. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced by two separate judges, first next month for his eight financial fraud convictions then separately in March for charges to which he pleaded guilty.

In a court filing last October, Gates’ lawyers said his cooperation interviews with the special counsel’s office in Washington have been “numerous.” He helped them even after he testified against Manafort at Manafort’s criminal trial this summer, his attorney said.

Gates was Trump’s deputy campaign chairman at a time when the campaign had several suspicious communications with Russians or about Russia, including then-campaign chairman Manafort sharing polling data with Kilimnik, the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, and the party’s decision to change its platform regarding Russian intervention in Ukraine.

At the same time, the Russians’ military intelligence hacked Democratic targets and facilitated the public release of stolen emails to damage Trump’s opponents. Russians backed by a powerful oligarch also at that time allegedly ran a propaganda campaign on American social media sites to influence voters in a way that would help Trump. Mueller’s investigation focuses on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Gates served on the campaign past Manafort’s August 2016 departure and went on to a leadership role in the inauguration. The inaugural committee is being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York for possible financial abuse, CNN previously reported.