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Former Trump adviser expected to plead guilty in Mueller probe

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Former Trump adviser expected to plead guilty in Mueller probe

Former Trump campaign adviser Richard Gates is likely to plead guilty Friday in a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller , new court documents indicate.

The special counsel’s office on Friday afternoon filed a criminal information against Gates charging him with two counts: conspiracy against the United States and making false a statement to the special counsel’s office.

Gates is expected to plead guilty to the charges on Friday afternoon in federal court in Washington, D.C. The hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, Gates told friends and family that he had decided to plead guilty for the sake of his children.

“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates wrote. “The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”

The plea agreement is the latest major development in the Russia investigation, making Gates the third figure from the Trump campaign to be brought down by Mueller’s probe.

Gates’s decision could place heavy pressure on Paul Manafort , his longtime business partner and President Trump ’s former campaign chairman, to also work with the special counsel rather than going to trial.

The deal comes the day after a grand jury in Virginia issued a superseding indictment for Gates and Manafort that brought the total charges to a whopping 32 counts.

A majority of the the counts in the new indictment, 23, applied to Gates, while 13 of them applied to Manafort.

The special counsel has been strategically building up the pressure against Gates with the new charges in an effort to back him into a corner, legal experts say.

Mueller first indicted Gates and Manafort in October, accusing them of a variety of crimes. Both men pleaded not guilty to the 12-counts brought against them in the original indictment, and Manafort has been battling it out with prosecutors in court.

Gates had been fighting the charges as well, but reportedly was feeling the strain of his legal costs. That sparked widespread speculation that he might seek a plea deal.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Gates could receive “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he agreed to cooperate with the investigation, potentially slashing his prison time from up to 70 years to just 18 months.

Mueller’s indictment accused Manafort and Gates of earning millions of dollars for lobbying work in Ukraine over a decade and then concealing those earnings from the U.S. government. The money the two men earned, according to the special counsel, “was laundered … through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.”

Gates was “instrumental in opening” the offshore accounts, according to prosecutors. He then allegedly used money from the accounts “to pay for his personal expenses, including his mortgage, children’s tuition, and interior decorating of his Virginia residence.” 

Prosecutors allege in total than $75 million flowed through Manafort’s and Gates’s offshore accounts that they schemed to hide from U.S. authorities “while enjoying the use of the money.”

The original charges against Manafort and Gates included conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, failure to register as agents working on behalf of a foreign government, making false and misleading statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as well as intentionally making false statements in an effort to conceal their crimes against the country. 

The new indictment appears to slap on a new charge that Manafort, with Gates’s assistance, extracted money from his real estate holdings between 2015 and “at least January 2017” in order to fraudulently secure than $20 million in loans by misrepresenting Manafort’s financial standing.

The indictment specifically charged Gates with failing to properly disclose to the Treasury Department that he had a financial interest in a foreign country, as well as failure to disclose ownership of overseas bank accounts with than $10,000 between 2012 and 2014. Manafort is similarly accused of failing to make such disclosures between 2012 and 2015.

Mueller has not charged Gates or Manafort for anything related to their work on Trump’s campaign. But the indictments were widely seen as leverage to force their cooperation as Mueller investigates possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort’s time on the Trump campaign intersects with events that are reportedly at the center of the federal investigation.

In June, Manafort accompanied Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner in attending the now highly scrutinized Trump Tower meeting,which the president’s eldest son arranged after a Russian lawyer promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton ‘s campaign.

The meeting turned out to be about Russian adoption policy, according to Trump Jr.

Other former Trump campaign aides like former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos are also cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. Both pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

Mueller in recent weeks has gone on a charging spree, indicting 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for extensive efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign through social media and other elaborate means.

He followed up those charged with a guilty plea from lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who confessed to lying to federal agents about his conversations with Gates regarding a 2012 report he helped compile for Ukraine’s government.

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