Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET
Rick Gates, the business partner of Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is expected to plead guilty to new charges brought against him this week.
A person familiar with the case confirmed to NPR on Friday that Gates has been negotiating with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller to change his plea from not guilty and cooperate with investigators.
Gates is expected to appear in federal court on Friday afternoon.
According to new court documents filed in the case, he could plead guilty to two charges.
The first is conspiracy against the United States for “impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely” the Justice Department and the Treasury Department.
The second is making false statements. According to court documents, Gates lied to the special counsel and the FBI on Feb 1 about a meeting that took place in March 2013 attended by Manafort, a “senior lobbyist” who is unnamed and a member of Congress who is unnamed.
Gates allegedly lied in saying he was told by Manafort that there were no discussions about Ukraine at the meeting.
The guilty plea would follow a new indictment from Thursday evening in which prosecutors leveled even more charges against Manafort and Gates than they had been facing before. The two men were accused of laundering millions of dollars from overseas, hiding money from the IRS and other crimes.
Manafort plans to continue fighting the charges. A spokesman told NPR on Thursday evening that Manafort “is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges.”
Neither Manafort nor Gates has been charged with conspiring with Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Gates’ change in plea, however, raises the prospect that Manafort’s legal situation also could change again.
Prosecutors could use testimony from Gates to make what would be essentially a case against Manafort for colluding with the 2016 Russian election interference effort, if there is one to be made. Gates’ evidence may increase the likelihood of a conviction on the charges already leveled against Manafort. Gates also could have additional information about Manafort that could result in new charges against him.
One possibility is that Manafort and his lawyers, cognizant of these perils, might change his plea and ask for their own deal with prosecutors. The special counsel’s office might ask Manafort to give evidence about other people in the Trump campaign orbit.
BY: CARRIE JOHNSON
February 23, 2018