Speculation has been mounting for weeks that former Paul Manafort lieutenant (and now indicted co-conspirator) Rick Gates might be preparing to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Now, the New York Times is reporting that Mueller could announce a Gates guilty plea as soon as Friday afternoon, less than a day after Gates fired his lawyers following the unsealing of a superseding indictment that also slapped Manafort and Gates with bank and tax fraud charges.
Gates, a longtime political consultant who met Manafort when he interned at one of Manafort's companies, is expected to strike a plea deal, which could be a significant development in the investigation as Gates presumably can offer a significant amount of incriminating information about Manafort and his activities relating to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
Gates' primary concern has been protecting his family, both emotionally and financially, since wealthy Republican donors who were supposed to foot the bill for his defense have reportedly welched on the funding. He's also hoping to spare his family the embarrassment of a drawn-out trial. Gates rolling over would also increase pressure on Manafort to roll over - presumably providing 'damning' evidence against President Trump.
Mueller's team has traced more than $75 million that passed through offshore accounts, and has accused Manafort of laundering more than $30 million to pay for real estate and luxury goods in the US.
Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts to his own accounts. Gates took over Eastern Europe duties at Manafort's old lobbying firm, Manafort & Davis, back in 2008.
Mueller has already secured guilty pleas from former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and former adviser George Papadopoulos.