Deputy Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, center, departs federal court in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh

Yet another member of Team Trump ends up behind bars

Rick Gates, Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, was supposed to be sentenced months ago, but the process was repeatedly delayed as he continued to cooperate with prosecutors in a variety of cases, including testifying during the criminal trials against Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Gates’ willingness to work with the authorities led prosecutors to agree that he should get probation and no prison sentence.

That didn’t quite work out for the defendant, though his punishment was hardly severe: Gates was sentenced this morning to three years probation and 45 days in jail.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Gates can serve the sentence on weekends and fined him $20,000, in addition to 300 hours of community service. She said Manafort would not have been as successful in his crimes if it were not for Gates. […]

Gates and Manafort were the first ex-Trump campaign officials to be charged by former special counsel Robert Mueller, accused of evading taxes and violating lobbying laws by concealing millions of dollars they earned representing pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Gates had pleaded guilty and spent more than 500 hours assisting government lawyers and federal agents.

This news comes just one month after Roger Stone, a former Trump aide and confidant, was also convicted on multiple felony counts. It’s part of what the Washington Post recently described as “the remarkable universe of criminality” surrounding the sitting president of the United States.

As we discussed in November, the number of criminals is important, but so too is the degree to which this dynamic conflicts with the message Trump has been eager to trumpet. As regular readers know, the president presents himself as being aggressively “tough on crime” and a champion of “law and order,” which he frequently tries to incorporate into his agenda. Earlier this year, while making the case for a border wall, the Republican declared, “The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about crime…. But I care about crime.”

Of course, given recent events, it’s hardly unreasonable to wonder whether he cares about crime or about surrounding himself with people who’ve committed crimes?

Revisiting our earlier coverage, let’s take stock of the number of presidential aides and associates who’ve faced felony charges:

* Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and confidant, has been convinced on multiple counts.

* Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and business associate, is in prison.

* Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, is in prison.

* Rick Gates, Trump’s former campaign vice chair, will soon spend time behind bars.

* Michael Flynn, Trump’s former White House national security adviser, has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

* George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former campaign adviser on foreign policy, has already served his prison sentence.

* Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort and Gates. has already served his prison sentence.

And those are just the top-line indictments. It doesn’t include the prison sentence for Richard Pinedo, the charges against related characters such as Sam Patten and Maria Butina, and, of course, the many Russian individuals and entities who’ve been indicted by the special counsel.

A year ago, the president wrote, in reference to the Mueller probe, “Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime?”

It was absurd at the time (Cohen made a surprise appearance in a New York courtroom to plead guilty to a new criminal charge a few hours after the tweet was published). It’s quite a bit worse now.

Update: The above list may yet grow, since there’s at least one person in his immediate orbit – Rudy Giuliani – who’s also reportedly facing a criminal investigation.