Rick Gates, a former top adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign indicted by the special counsel is expected to plead guilty as soon as Friday afternoon, a move that signals he is cooperating with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the New York Times reports. The plea deal could be a significant development in the investigation, a sign that Gates plans to offer incriminating information against his longtime associate and the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, or other members of the Trump campaign in exchange for a lighter punishment. The deal comes as special counsel Robert Mueller has been raising pressure on Gates and Manafort with dozens of new charges of money laundering and bank fraud that were unsealed on Thursday.
Gates’s primary concern has been protecting his family, both emotionally and financially, from the prospect of a drawn-out trial. If Manafort continues to fight the charges in a trial, testimony from Gates could give Mueller’s team a first-person account of the criminal conduct that is claimed in the indictments, a blow to Manafort’s defense strategy. Gates was present for the most significant periods of activity of the campaign, as Trump began developing policy positions and his digital operation engaged with millions of voters on platforms such as Facebook. The indictments detailed a wide-ranging scheme by Gates and Manafort to hide from American authorities millions of dollars they had earned as political consultants in Ukraine. The men worked in various capacities with Viktor Yanukovych, the onetime Ukrainian president and a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.