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Schiff calls for Gates to testify before House panel after plea deal

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Schiff calls for Gates to testify before House panel after plea deal

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday called for former Trump campaign adviser Richard Gates to testify before the panel, saying he can provide new insight in the ongoing Russia probe. The testimony would follow Gates’s plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller .

“At the appropriate time, it will be important for the House Intelligence Committee to hear directly from Mr. Gates, and other cooperating witnesses, as part of our ongoing investigation into the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement. 

Gates pleaded guilty on Friday afternoon to two charges brought against him by Mueller in federal court in Washington, D.C.. The charges include one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making a false a statement to the FBI agents investigating Russian interference. Gates has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s federal investigation.

Mueller initially charged Manafort and Gates in late October. Both pleaded not guilty at that time.

But Mueller on Thursday unveiled additional charges in a 32-count superseding indictment hitting Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a series of financial-related crimes related to their work for pro-Russian political forces in Ukraine.

The charges are not directly related to the Trump campaign as the work took place years before Manafort’s and Gates’s involvement with it.

But Schiff said Gates could offer direct knowledge about Manafort, his longtime business partner, as well as information from his time serving on the campaign. 

Schiff’s fresh interest in Gates is likely due to Gates’s new cooperation in Mueller’s probe.

“Gates was also in a position to observe the inner workings of the campaign at its most senior level and, as the special counsel looks into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, Gates could prove a key source of information on these and other issues,” Schiff said.

The majority on the committee has the authority to compel witnesses to testify. Schiff has made repeated calls for witnesses to appear or reappear and complained that Republicans have rarely pressed for testimony.

Legal experts say Gates is also likely a key figure in cooperation with the probe and will ratchet up the pressure against Manafort, in an effort to also get him to flip to working with federal prosecutors. 

Manafort, under pressure on Friday, maintained his innocence in a statement following Gates’s plea deal.

“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort said in part. “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.”

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