EXCLUSIVE: Mueller's star witness says cooperating in the Russia probe was like 'political waterboarding' and wants Trump to pardon him

Rick Gates, former election worker for US President Donald Trump, is leaving federal court in Washington after being sentenced to 45 days in prison. Reuters
Former Trump campaign vice chairman Rick Gates rewrote the story in an extensive interview with Insider and in his upcoming book, Wicked Game: An Inside Out Story About Trump Won, Mueller Failed, and America Lost.
Gates pleaded guilty in 2018 to making false statements to the FBI and plotting against the United States. He later testified in court that he had committed a variety of financial crimes with his former boss and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
But Gates struck a different chord last week, telling Insider that the charges against him were unlawful and amounted to political persecution. In his book he also compared the cooperation process with "political waterboarding".
When asked if he is now tracing his guilty plea and affidavit, Gates denied it, telling Insider, "I took full responsibility for my actions," even though "the case was done against me in relation to tampering."
He also said that he "absolutely" wants Trump to forgive him, adding, "This whole thing took care of him from the start and a lot of the rest of us just got swept into it."
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Former Trump campaign vice chairman Rick Gates took on a somber tone in the summer of 2018 when he testified against his former boss and mentor Paul Manafort, admitting a judge, jury and a packed courtroom had committed crimes on Manafort's orders to have.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two crimes, false statements to the FBI and conspiracy against the United States. Gates then became the star witness to Special Adviser Robert Mueller in the Russia Inquiry, giving prosecutors detailed descriptions of how he and Manafort, as political advisers, had violated federal tax laws, withheld foreign bank accounts, and embezzled money.
"I deeply regret the mistakes I made and have worked hard to meet my obligation to make amends," Gates told the judge who oversaw his December hearing. "I take full responsibility for my actions."
But Gates struck a different chord in his upcoming book, Wicked Game: An Inside Story About Trump Winning, Mueller Failing, and America Losing.
In the book, the early copy of which was obtained from Insider, Gates rewrote the story, saying that the charges in Mueller's investigation into Russian electoral interference were "political persecution" and that the charges against him were "fabricated and manipulated".
He also compared the cooperation process to "political waterboarding" and repeated Trump's claim that Mueller's prosecutors were biased crooks who wanted to bring in the president and his loyalists.
In an interview with Insider, Gates was asked if, given his reformulated views, he is now tracing his guilty pledge and affidavit.
He denied this, saying, "I have taken full responsibility for my actions. I mean, I am not - I do not withdraw and I have accepted my guilt, even if the case was carried out against me in relation to tampering with me know the mistakes I've made and I don't counter. I wrote this book because I want people to fully understand my side and then add their own judgment and conclusion. "
"I want to go forward and keep going," he added. "It's been a difficult journey, but I want people to understand the truth and, frankly, I don't think this kind of special investigation should ever happen to an American again."
When asked how he admits his crimes on allegations that Mueller conducted an illegitimate investigation, Gates said the FBI and Justice Department "are not inherently corrupt, but obviously there are a few bad apples. Based on that Information I Had At the time I pleaded guilty, I made the best decision I could make for my family. "
This court sketch shows Rick Gates (right) answering questions from District Attorney Greg Andres as he testifies in the Alexandria Federal Court of Paul Manafort, second from left
Gates went on to say he believed they were manipulated because Mueller's team charged him with getting bigger fish. "Their target was clearly the president," he said. "So the manipulation part comes in because they needed people like me to get to other people."
Gates was referring to a common legal tactic called "flipping" that prosecutors routinely use in criminal investigations to obtain cooperating witnesses.
"So what did Muller show after two years of putting people's lives at risk and spending over $ 32 million in taxpayers' money?" Gates wrote in his book. "The end that they were was never reached. That end had already been refuted by the FBI in August 2017. The best the Müller report would offer was a potential obstruction of justice, which Müller himself does not criminalize wanted to pursue justice for a case that should never have progressed. "
Mueller's team didn't find enough evidence to charge anyone with a criminal conspiracy in the Russia investigation. However, the Special Envoy's report states: "The investigation found that the Russian government believed it would benefit from a Trump presidency and was working to secure that outcome and that the campaign was expecting information stolen and released through Russian efforts. " ""
The investigation led to charges against 35 people and three Russian units on charges of financial crimes, lying against Congress and FBI investigators, and computer hacking. In addition to Gates and Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump election worker George Papadopoulos and former Trump fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty. Long-time Republican strategist Roger Stone was also convicted on seven counts, but the president commuted his sentence earlier this year.
Mueller did not pass "traditional prosecution rulings" on whether Trump was obstructing the judiciary, citing a 1973 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be charged. However, prosecutors documented eleven potential cases that could result in disability and wrote that Trump's many attempts to exercise control of the Russia probe had largely failed because his aides refused to carry out his orders.
In response to Gates' allegation that the cases against him and Manafort were motivated by political bias, the Justice Department's Inspector General noted last year that there was no "documentary or significant evidence that political bias or inappropriate motivation was behind the decisions to open the four individual examinations influenced ". in Manafort, Flynn, Papadopoulos and former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
A separate, ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, led by Attorney General William Barr and US attorney John Durham, has so far resulted in a former FBI attorney pleading guilty of false testimony.
Last month, a seasoned DOJ prosecutor who worked on the investigation resigned on fear that Barr wanted to force a politically charged report against Trump's enemies to be published before the election. FBI Director Chris Wray also opened an internal review of the Flynn case under pressure from the president, but the investigation has revealed no evidence of wrongdoing.
The DOJ asked a federal judge to dismiss his case against Flynn - who pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI - earlier that year, but the judge denied the motion. A three judge appeals court overturned this decision and ordered the case to be dismissed. However, the entire appeals court overturned that decision while it was reviewing the case.
Barr opened a further investigation into the Flynn case in May, specifically focusing on baseless allegations that his name was wrongly "exposed" in US intelligence reports. The US attorney who was tapped to oversee the investigation resigned last week.
For his part, Gates said he "totally disagrees" with the Inspector General's findings and that "just because he's Inspector General of a government agency doesn't mean we have to believe him. There's no way anyone can mentally and unconsciously." Separate their prejudices about a candidate or president and say they can still do their job. "
When asked if Trump should forgive him, Gates said, "Absolutely. This whole thing took care of him from the start and a lot of the rest of us got swept into it."
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