Pressure mounts for Manafort, Gates to strike deal as Special Counsel pace quickens

PHOTO: Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill on June 21, 2017.PlayAndrew Harnik/AP, FILE
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Special Counsel investigators have spurred a flurry of court activity this past week as pressure mounts on two key targets who sources close to the case say are weighing whether to keep fighting the charges or cut deals to cooperate with the probe.

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One day after reaching a plea deal with a former associate of onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, federal prosecutors showed up at the federal court with additional charging documents — filed under seal — in the case against the duo.

Gates is also currently facing a looming deadline to settle on his legal team.

The new secret court filings that arrived Wednesday were added to a binder in the clerk’s office that documents charges filed in the courthouse. This could indicate that prosecutors have submitted a superseding indictment – new charges -- against Manafort, Gates, or even unknown individuals. Or, it could be the first signal that Manafort or Gates has reached an agreement that would leave them facing lesser charges.

PHOTO: President Trumps former campaign manager Paul Manafort, departs U.S. District Court on Oct., 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C.Bill OLeary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
President Trumps former campaign manager Paul Manafort, departs U.S. District Court on Oct., 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Both men were indicted on October 30 on charges of money laundering, failing to register as foreign agents, and lying to federal officials in connection with lobbying and other activities that occurred prior and unrelated to the Presidential campaign, and both pleaded not guilty. Manafort has been on strict home confinement, and Gates has been allowed slightly more lenient conditions though he, like Manafort, wears a GPS tracking device and must obey a curfew.

Prosecutors have given no indication when the new filing will be unsealed. The Special Counsel’s Office declined to comment when asked about the filing by ABC News.

So far, no charges against either Manafort or Gates have been related to their time on the Trump campaign. Last week, prosecutors used public filings in a bail negotiation to make public their belief that Manafort had committed additional financial crimes that have not yet led to public charges. The government opposed a more lenient bail package for Manafort “in light of additional criminal conduct that we have learned since the court’s initial bail determination,” adding that the conduct in question “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

Gates has been to court with one set of attorneys, even though he has also acknowledged hiring veteran criminal defense attorney Thomas Green, who has been in discussions with the Special Counsel over a possible plea deal. Those talks have been ongoing and intense, sources tell ABC News.

PHOTO: Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30, 2017. Susan Walsh/AP, FILE
Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30, 2017.

Green, a former federal prosecutor, appeared last Wednesday near the end of a status conference for Gates and Manafort, though he was not there in an official capacity. Green and Gates huddled outside the courtroom, speaking animatedly together, and Green accompanied Gates back inside the courtroom for a closed-door appearance before the judge.

The stated purpose of the hearing was to discuss Gates’ current legal team, which has sought to pull out of the case, according to court filings. Gates requested one additional week with that legal team, which had been preparing for a trial, and the judge agreed, pointing to a possible deadline of today for some kind of deal to be reached, barring another request for a delay.

This all comes as Mueller’s team of prosecutors announced Friday that they would charge 13 Russians and three Russian groups with violating federal law for meddling "with U.S. elections and political processes.”

Just days later, Mueller’s team netted yet another guilty plea, its fourth, this time from Dutch national Alex Van Der Zwaan, 33, who prosecutors say made false statements about communications in 2016 with Gates and an unnamed person.

According to top Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, Van Der Zwaan worked for a law firm that did work in Ukraine in 2012 and “worked closely” with Gates who – alongside his boss, Paul Manafort – did extensive work for the government of Ukraine.