Rohrabacher meeting linked to third Trump aide guilty plea

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

The special counsel just landed one more guilty Trump aide to cooperate in the Russia investigation.

Another Trump campaign adviser has pleaded guilty to conspiring against the United States and lying to the FBI about a 2013 meeting involving Orange County Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

Rick Gates, who worked on the campaign through Election Day, pleaded guilty to two charges just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller released 32 new charges against Gates and Paul Manafort.

A centerpiece of the guilty plea revolves around a 2013 meeting between Manafort and Rohrabacher. Gates admitted to lying to the FBI about the content of that meeting.

According to the Washington Post, “In the [FBI] interview, Gates claimed there had been no discussion of Ukraine at the 2013 meeting, when in fact, Gates and Manafort prepared a report detailing the Ukrainian discussions, according to the criminal information.”

At the time, Manafort was lobbying on behalf of a Ukrainian party known to be friendly with Russia. Manafort later became Trump’s campaign manager.

Rohrabacher’s suspiciously friendly ties to Russia have earned him the nickname, “Putin’s favorite congressman.” Earlier this month, Rohrabacher sided with Russia and against U.S. intelligence agencies in a discussion about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s investigation has taken an interest in Rohrabacher’s activities.

Gates’ guilty plea came mere hours after Trump addressed the annual right-wing convention known as CPAC. During his long, rambling speech, he basked in the sound of the crowd chanting “lock her up.”

As the Washington Post notes, Gates could be a particularly useful asset to Mueller’s investigation. He was a high-level staffer during the campaign, but also had access to Trump’s inner circle through the first few months of the administration.

That could mean Gates knows a lot of secrets the White House is desperate to keep quiet. Mueller was appointed last June to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But the scope of his investigation has reportedly expanded to look into whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to impede the investigation.

Gates now joins two other Trump advisers who have also pleaded guilty. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, pleaded guilty in October and has been cooperating with the FBI for nearly a year.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December.

Trump had called the Russia investigation a “hoax,” even after two of his former aides pleaded guilty. He has falsely claimed that the recent indictment of 13 Russian operatives vindicates him.

During CPAC speech, Trump returned to his old attacks on Hillary Clinton. He called her “crooked” and claimed investigations have somehow revealed her wrongdoing. They have not, but that was reason enough for the crowd to start chanting “lock her up” again.

The CPAC crowd broke into the same cheer on Thursday, shortly after the new indictment against Manafort and Gates was announced.

Trump and his supporters continue to demand Clinton’s investigation and even jailing. But it is Trump’s own advisers who are facing, and pleading guilty to, serious criminal charges that could send them to prison.

Meanwhile, Rohrabacher’s fondness for Russia, and his staunch loyalty to Trump, have made him a top target of Democrats this election cycle.

Dan Desai Martin contributed to this article.