Three attorneys representing Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday they are immediately withdrawing as counsel for the former Donald Trump campaign aide, who is fighting special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of him on money laundering and other charges.
Lawyers Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy said in a two-page motion that they would explain the reasons for their abrupt move in documents filed under seal with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“The document speaks for itself,” McAvoy told POLITICO, declining further comment.
Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty to Mueller’s charges filed in October, the first to be publicly announced in relation to the investigation into whether the Republican presidential campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
While Gates’ shift in legal strategy was a surprise, speculation had been mounting that the longtime GOP operative might be seeking to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. CNN reported last month that Gates had added Washington defense attorney Tom Green to his team, noting he’d been spotted at Mueller’s downtown office twice.
Green has not filed a formal appearance in the court case, which as of Thursday still listed on the public docket Wu, Mack, McAvoy and a Washington D.C.-based federal public defender who appeared with Gates at his initial court pleading. Gates had also retained former assistant U.S. attorney Michael Dry as his attorney, but that relationship was severed before Mueller filed his October indictment.
“The number of lawyers he’s cycled through in such a short period of time is highly unusual,” said one Washington-based defense attorney familiar with the Russia probe.
A criminal trial won’t start until September at the earliest, according to the federal judge overseeing the case, who last month rejected a request from Mueller’s team to begin the trial in May. Gates has also been working to get permanent release from house arrest by securing a $5 million bail package.
He was reprimanded in December by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for appearing in a brief, videotaped address trying to raise money for his own legal defense fund, a move that she said raised questions about his following a gag order issued for all parties and lawyers involved in the high-profile case.
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