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Mueller news: Rick Gates, former Trump campaign aide, still cooperating

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One of special counsel Robert Mueller’s top cooperators isn’t done cooperating with the government.

Rick Gates, the longtime right-hand-man to Paul Manafort who had high-level roles on the Trump campaign and inauguration, is not yet ready for sentencing, Mueller’s team said Friday — because Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations.”

Gates struck a plea deal with Mueller’s team in February 2018 and testified against Manafort at his trial in August 2018.

What’s left tantalizingly unclear, as ever, is what’s going on with Mueller’s own investigation. For weeks, it’s been rumored in Washington that the special counsel is close to wrapping up — but no Mueller report has yet materialized.

However, Gates’s continued cooperation doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the state of the special counsel probe because he isn’t only cooperating with Mueller.

There are at least two known investigations, beyond Mueller’s own, that Gates is believed to be cooperating with: an investigation into the Trump inauguration’s money and an investigation into lobbyists’ and lawyers’ unregistered work for Ukraine.

Since both of those investigations appear to remain active, it makes perfect sense that Gates isn’t yet ready for sentencing. Gates could also be providing assistance to other investigations we don’t know about.

Who is Rick Gates?

Basically, Gates is Paul Manafort’s protégé and right-hand man, who was at his side during his past decade of lobbying and foreign work before going with him to join the Trump campaign.

Gates is two decades younger than Manafort and joined his firm in 2006, eventually managing much of its Eastern Europe portfolio and often working out of Kiev. Gates was deeply involved in Manafort’s work for Viktor Yanukovych, then Ukraine’s president, and with the web of offshore accounts Manafort used for money laundering.

So when Trump brought on Manafort to his presidential campaign in March 2016, Gates came along, too. Gates is not known to have ever had much of a personal relationship with Trump, but he was Manafort’s top deputy during the months Manafort was running the show. Even after his boss’s ouster in August 2016, Gates stuck around, staying with the campaign through the general election.

After Trump won, Gates got another plum job. Billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, in charge of planning Trump’s inaugural, turned to Gates as his chief deputy. (Barrack had known Manafort since the 1970s and helped convince Trump to bring him on to the campaign.)

According to a November 2016 report by Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News, Gates became instrumental in the inauguration’s fundraising and planning. Isikoff quoted a source calling Gates the “shadow” chair of the inauguration and Barrack’s “chief deputy.” Then, in 2017, Barrack gave Gates a job at his investment firm Colony Capital.

Things took a turn for Gates in late October 2017, when special counsel Robert Mueller indicted both him and Manafort. The charges were financial and undisclosed lobbying crimes related to the pair’s past Ukraine work, and the then-45-year-old Gates was facing the prospect of a decade or more in jail. An additional indictment for tax and bank fraud charges in February 2018 further turned up the heat.

So Gates flipped. On February 23, 2018, he pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges and committed to cooperate with the government.

What are the investigations Rick Gates been cooperating with?

Gates’s most visible cooperation involved providing evidence against Manafort and testifying against his old boss at his trial (in which Gates admitted to embezzling and to an extramarital affair). Gates also provided Mueller information about his boss’s contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate who the US government claims is tied to Russian intelligence — a topic Mueller’s team has said goes to the “heart” of their investigation.

The full extent of information Gates has provided to Mueller about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia is unclear. It’s not known whether Gates mainly provided information about Manafort on this front, or whether he also had important information about others in the campaign.

But Gates hasn’t only been cooperating with Mueller, the special counsel has made clear in court filings over the past few months. “Defendant Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations,” Mueller wrote last November (and again on Friday). What might those be?

For one, there’s been a spinoff from the Manafort case, related to whether other lobbyists and lawyers who worked with Manafort and Gates regarding Ukraine should have registered as foreign agents. Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, Republican lobbyist Vin Weber, and former White House counsel Greg Craig have all come under scrutiny. According to CNN, Mueller referred these matters to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

Secondly, it’s become clear in recent months that the Trump inauguration is under investigation too for various possible crimes related to its donors and its spending. Gates’s high-level role in planning the inauguration planning committee makes him a potentially valuable cooperator there as well, though his specific role in that probe is unclear.

The big picture is that it looks like Gates has been Mueller’s star cooperator so far. Unlike Michael Cohen, he agreed to open-ended cooperation. Unlike Michael Flynn, the government clearly wants more from him. Unlike Paul Manafort, his cooperation didn’t collapse amid accusations of lying. Unlike George Papadopoulos, he didn’t talk to the media and spur the special counsel to cut off contact with him. And even if Mueller is close to wrapping up, Gates’s cooperation clearly isn’t done.


For more on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox’s guide to the Trump-Russia investigation.

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Look at How Much “Game of Thrones” Characters Have Changed Over 8 Seasons

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During the summer of 2019, the final season of Game of Thrones aired. The show had gone on for almost 10 years which is a long time not only for the characters but also for the actors who portrayed them.

Bright Side is remembering what characters looked like in the very first episodes of the groundbreaking series and is comparing them to what they look like in the final season of the show.

1. Cersei Lannister

2. Jon Snow

3. Tyrion Lannister

4. Daenerys Targaryen

5. Sansa Stark

6. Arya Stark

7. Jorah Mormont

8. Varys

9. Jaime Lannister

10. Sandor Clegane

11. Brienne of Tarth

12. Samwell Tarly

13. Davos Seaworth

14. Theon Greyjoy

15. Brandon Stark

Did you watch Game of Thrones? Did you enjoy season 8? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Baltimore’s ransomware attack, explained – Vox

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Thirteen bitcoins are standing between the city of Baltimore and many of the services and processes its citizens rely on after hackers seized thousands of government computers at the start of the month. The ordeal has been going on for two weeks, and there’s no clear end in sight.

Here’s what’s happening: On May 7, hackers digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up. It’s a so-called “ransomware” attack, where hackers deploy malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system pays a ransom.

Baltimore, like several other cities that have been hit by such attacks over the past two years, is refusing to pay up. As a result, for two weeks, city employees have been locked out of their email accounts and citizens have been unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. This is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months: Last year, a separate attack shut down the city’s 911 system for about a day. Baltimore has come under scrutiny for its handling of both attacks.

The ransomware attacks in Baltimore and other local governments across the US demonstrate that as ransomware attacks spread, and as common targets such as hospitals and schools beef up their online systems’ security, there are still plenty targets vulnerable to this kind of hack. It also exemplifies the conundrum that ransomware victims face: pay up and get your access back, or refuse — potentially costing much more in the long run.

What’s going on in Baltimore, briefly explained

Hackers targeted the city of Baltimore on May 7 using a ransomware called RobbinHood, which, as NPR explains, makes it impossible to access a server without a digital key that only the hackers have.

The Baltimore hackers’ ransom note, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, demanded payment of three bitcoins per system to be unlocked, which amounts to 13 bitcoins to unlock all the seized systems. The note threatened to increase the ransom if it wasn’t paid in four days, and said the information would be lost forever if it wasn’t paid in 10 days. Both deadlines have now passed.

“We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!” the note said.

The city government is refusing to pay, meaning that the government email systems and payment platforms the attack took down remain offline. The attack has also harmed Baltimore’s property market, because officials weren’t able to access systems needed to complete real estate sales. (The city said transactions resumed on Monday.)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, who’s officially been in his office less than a month, said in a statement on Friday that city officials are “well into the restorative process” and have “engaged leading industry cybersecurity experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.” The FBI is also involved in the investigation.

“Some of the restoration efforts also require that we rebuild certain systems to make sure that when we restore business functions, we are doing so in a secure manner,” Young said. He did not offer a timeline for when all systems will come back online.

The Baltimore City Council president also plans to form a special committee to investigate this latest attack and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A similar attack using RobbinHood hit government computers in Greenville, North Carolina, in April. A spokesperson for Greenville told the Wall Street Journal that the city never wound up paying, and that while its systems aren’t entirely restored, “all of our major technology needs are now being met.”

More than 20 municipalities in the US have been hit by cyberattacks this year alone. And such attacks can be expensive, perhaps especially if targets say they won’t pay. In 2018, hackers demanded that Atlanta pay about $50,000 in bitcoins as part of a ransomware attack. The city refused, and according to a report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, the attack wound up costing the city $17 million to fix.

Ransomware attacks aren’t new — but we’re still figuring out how to deal with them

In 2017, a ransomware called WannaCry targeted tens of thousands of computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems in more than 100 countries. Officials in the US and the United Kingdom eventually blamed North Korea for the attack. Also in 2017, corporations in the UK, France, Russia, Israel, and Ukraine experienced ransomware attacks. US hospitals were also targeted.

Here’s how Timothy Lee explained for Vox what was going on and how ransomware had become more prolific:

The basic idea behind ransomware is simple: A criminal hacks into your computer, scrambles your files with unbreakable encryption, and then demands that you pay for the encryption key needed to unscramble the files. If you have important files on your computer, you might be willing to pay a lot to avoid losing them.

Ransomware schemes have become a lot more effective since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009. Conventional payment networks like Visa and Mastercard make it difficult to accept payments without revealing your identity. Bitcoin makes that a lot easier. So the past four years have seen a surge in ransomware schemes striking unsuspecting PC users.

Some ransomware schemes are so sophisticated that they even invest in customer service, helping victims who want to pay their ransoms navigate the complexities of obtaining bitcoins and making bitcoin payments.

Since then, a number of sectors and organizations have made improvements to their security practices to protect against ransomware. But the latest Baltimore attack exemplifies what a whack-a-mole game this is: One area improves its practices and hackers just go looking for another.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.

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Cameron Russell for ELLE

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A film by Kai Z Feng of our February 2014 cover.

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