Special counsel Robert Mueller. (Photo: Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to file updates Friday on two major figures in the Russia investigation, which could provide new information on the direction of the probe.

Friday is the deadline for Mueller to detail why he has asked a judge to cancel the plea deal the government struck with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to eight felonies in August, including bank fraud and tax fraud. Manafort was reportedly cooperating with Mueller's Russia investigation, but Mueller requested the deal be struck last week because Manafort had lied to the federal government. In the filing, Mueller must detail what those lies were.

Also before the weekend, Mueller has to file a sentencing recommendation for former Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to five charges including bank fraud and a campaign finance violation. Both are connected to hush payments he arranged before the election for two women who claimed they had sexual encounters with Trump. As part of the recommendation, Mueller will detail the extent of Cohen's cooperation, which could implicate other Trump associates and family members in lying to Congress or conspiring with Russia against the United States to swing the 2016 election.

Both filings are likely to be released with redactions. But even the heavily redacted Michael Flynn sentencing memo, released earlier this week, provided new information and kicked off days of dot-connecting exercises on cable news shows.

 

Experts have questioned whether Manafort was a link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Manafort earned tens of million dollars from a Russian oligarch to work in Ukraine as a pro-Russia consultant. Shortly after Manafort joined the Trump campaign, the 2016 Republican convention platform was changed to eliminate a pledge to help arm Ukraine against Russian aggression.

In early December, it was reported that Donald Trump Jr. had told friends he expected to be indicted by Mueller. Cohen's testimony could provide information about whether Trump Jr. lied to Congress about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians proffering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

President Trump submitted written answers to Mueller's questions last week.

The Atlantic reported Thursday that the White House has no formal plan to respond to Mueller's reporting, and "is all but winging it." A source told the magazine that the Trump administration's approach is "like 'Jesus take the wheel,' but scarier."