CBS News has learned that federal prosecutors are insisting that Abramoff serve time in jail – and serve up the details of his relationships with members of Congress who may have accepted his money and gifts in exchange for their support.
The Republican lobbyist at the center of a Capitol Hill bribery probe could end up pleading guilty under an arrangement that would settle a criminal case against him in Florida as well as potential charges in Washington, a person close to the probe told the Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussions between prosecutors and Abramoff's lawyers.
Asked how many members of Congress Abramoff could implicate, the person said only that "cooperation is cooperation; it's full cooperation."
An agreement could be reached quickly, as early as "the beginning of next week," though the person cautioned that unspecified issues remain to be worked out.
The New York Times first reported on the talks Tuesday night in a story its Web site.
Abramoff's attorney, Abbe Lowell, declined to comment, as did Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrakasse.
Talks have been going on "a long time, months," but only in the past week or so have they come "close to any kind of fruition," the person said.
A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has already pleaded guilty in the probe.
Court papers in the plea by former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon say Scanlon and Abramoff "provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts."
The court papers referred repeatedly to one of the officials as Representative No. 1, acknowledged by his lawyer to be Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Both Ney and his lawyer deny wrongdoing.
"Even if Abramoff doesn't implicate Tom DeLay or any other big political names his deal could have serious political ramifications," says CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen, "because he is apparently in a great position to shed light on current lobbying practices and the connections they involve.
"So if this happens it's a big deal politically as well as legally."