Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates set to plead guilty in Russia probe
WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - A former deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Rick Gates, will plead guilty on Friday to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators, according to court documents, in a sign he will likely cooperate with a federal probe into Russia's role in the election.
Gates is being investigated by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is probing accusations of Russia meddling in the U.S. election.
A federal judge set a plea hearing for 2 p.m. (1900 GMT) for Gates, who had been facing much more serious charges including bank fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
On Thursday, Mueller filed a 32-count indictment against Gates and his former business partner Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign manager for five months in 2016. Gates has been charged with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, bank fraud, and bank fraud conspiracy, among other charges.
A guilty plea by Gates would increase pressure on Manafort to also seek a plea deal.
Cooperation by the two could potentially provide a rich vein of information for Mueller, who is also investigating whether Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to interfere in the election.
None of the charges to date against Gates or Manafort have referenced a connection with Russian meddling in the 2016 election or possible collusion. Russia has denied the accusations and Trump has said there was no collusion.
Mueller, appointed by the Department of Justice last year, has a broad brief that allows him to look into any wrongdoing uncovered in the course of his investigation. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Karen Freifeld; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry, Toni Reinhold)