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Firm in Mueller indictment got RNC funds for work on Trump campaign

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, left, leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.
Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, left, leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. AP

A company listed in the Monday indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates received funds from the Republican National Committee for work done in coordination with Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Bade LLC, listed in the indictment among 17 domestic entities that Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used to hide foreign earnings, particularly from Ukraine, was paid a total of $70,000 in three payments by the Republican National Committee in September 2016, October 2016 and January 2017.

The payments, all for “political strategy services,” each list an address associated with Gates.

President Donald Trump dismissed the indictment in a Monday morning tweeting, saying the activities were “years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

But the first page of the grand jury indictment charges that “In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”

And Bade LLC was not only active at the upper end of that time frame, but played a direct role in the 2016 elections.

“It’s obvious that if they got the campaign money, they had something to do with the campaign,” said Jack Blum, an attorney specializing in international tax and financial secrecy laws.

Manafort, who became the Trump campaign chair in May 2016, received only about $3,000 in payments from the Trump campaign, all reimbursements for travel or meeting-related expenses. He left the campaign that August, after questions emerged about his work in Ukraine.

But Gates continued to work for the RNC through the election, with the last of the payments to Bade coming after Election Day

The payments to Bade LLC were party coordinated expenditures, which are a subset of party spending done in conjunction with candidates.

It’s common for people who have moved from a campaign to a party committee to be paid through this mechanism, said Adav Noti, a former lawyer with the Federal Election Commission, who now works for the advocacy group Campaign Legal Center.

“It’s presumed that they’re coordinating with the candidate,” Noti said.

McClatchy was unable to reach Gates for comment. The RNC did not respond to requests for comment.

After the election, Gates worked for Trump’s inaugural committee and was among the co-founders of America First Policies, a non-profit established to support Trump’s White House agenda.

Asked about Gate’s work for America First Policies, spokeswoman Erin Montgomery downplayed his role.

“We believe it is important to clarify that Rick Gates’ association with America First Polices was informal and limited, and, as noted in press reports, ended around March of this year,” Montgomery said in an emailed statement. “Since then, he has had no formal or informal role with the organization.”

Gates left the group in March in the wake of revelations about work done by Manafort to aid the Russian government. Gates has since worked for Tom Barrack, the billionaire longtime friend of Trump who led Trump’s inaugural committee.

Monday’s indictment lists a total of 17 domestic and 15 foreign entities associated with Gates, Manafort or both. Of those, 17 are associated with Gates or jointly with Gates and Manafort. The indictment indicates that Gates failed to file required disclosure documents with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about foreign bank and financial accounts between 2008 and 2013.

 

It’s unclear how exactly Gates and/or Manafort used Bade LLC, but it provides a clear link between their foreign work and Trump’s presidential bid.

“Gates continued to use the company,” said Blum, noting the indictment provides few other details so it is hard to know if this was a matter of convenience or part of the alleged conspiracy to hide overseas payments.

In federal court on Monday, both Gates and Manafort pleaded not guilty.

Ben Wieder: 202-383-6125, @benbwieder Kevin G. Hall 202-383-6038, @KevinGHall

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