According to court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller this week, former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates kept contact with an individual he knew to be a former member of Russian military intelligence in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Gates was “directly communicating in September and October 2016” with an unidentified person who “has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016,” the filing says.
Crucially, Gates was aware of this person's ties to Russian intelligence, the filing adds, calling the 2016 conversations “pertinent to the investigation.”
Gates, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI earlier this year, is cooperating with Mueller's investigation.
Gates is likely helping Mueller probe his former business partner and Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, money laundering and tax and bank fraud charges.
Though the Russian spy is unnamed in the court filing and referred to as Person A, VICE notes that The Washington Post believes the description of Person A appears to match that of Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik, the manager of his lobbying office in Kiev.
Gates stayed on with the Trump campaign longer than Manafort, who left in August of 2016. Gates also assisted with the inauguration, transition, and was present during Trump's first days in the White House.
“He saw everything,” a Republican consultant who worked with Gates on the campaign told Politico. Another defense attorney in the Mueller case noted that Gates’ plea had triggered a palpable alarm inside the West Wing.
Gates’ co-operation has increased pressure on Manafort to likewise flip and provide Mueller with information on Trump and other senior campaign aides. Manafort faces the rest of his life behind bars if he’s found guilty of the charges.