Manafort says he doesn't understand why Gates pleaded guilty

Manafort says he doesn't understand why Gates pleaded guilty
© Camille Fine

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller asks for delay in Gates sentencing: filing Mueller targets Stone in final push 5 things to know about new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker MORE issued a statement Friday expressing disappointment over the decision of his long-tme business associate, Richard Gates, to plead guilty to two charges stemming from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia investigation.

In the statement, Manafort maintained his innocence and said that he had hoped Gates would have had the "strength" to fight the charges against them at trial.

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"Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence," Manafort wrote.

"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me,” he added.

Gates pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy against the United States and making a false statement to lawyers from the special counsel's office.

In a letter, Gates wrote that a "change of heart" and a desire to spare his family the cost of an extended legal battle led to his decision.

“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates wrote. “The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”

Gates's deal with prosecutors came one day after a new superseding indictment from a Virginia grand jury brought the total number of charges against Gates and Manafort to 32.

Mueller first indicted the two former Trump aides last year, with both men initially pleading not guilty.

They are accused of making millions of dollars while lobbying in Ukraine for over a decade, then concealing the money from the U.S. government, among other things.