Ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort to plead guilty to conspiracy charges

Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel

Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel

Paul Manafort has accepted a plea deal on two counts - a federal conspiracy charge, as well as a count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to various reports.

None of the charges in question were directly related to the Trump campaign, and it's unclear whether the "cooperation agreement" announced by federal prosecutors Friday will see Manafort offer information on campaign activities specifically.

Manafort has agreed in his plea to cooperate with the federal probe to determine the extent that Russian government interests attempted to influence and alter the outcome of the 2016 election.

It was not immediately clear what information Manafort might provide prosecutors.

Manafort, 69, also pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, becoming the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation.

This does not necessarily mean that Manafort has any dirt on Trump, not that this is going to stop any sort of speculation that he does.

Since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel 16 months ago, his investigation has endured an unrelenting onslaught of attacks from the president and his allies. Several lawyers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS agents who had worked on the case attended the hearing, occupying two-and-a-half rows in the audience.

The deal will short-circuit Manafort's trial scheduled for later this month. "I'm confident", he replied, without saying whether Manafort's lawyers had given him this assurance.

A jury found Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Manafort was convicted last month in the Virginia case of bank fraud and tax crimes. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial. But the plea nonetheless makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and co-operate with investigators in hopes of leniency.

News that Manafort has chose to break is quite surprising given that he had the option when facing his first trial over the summer. And the judge may decide to run those sentences consecutively or concurrently. But that is more than the statutory maximum which is five years, which the judge can not exceed. They worked together for the Washington DC lobbying and political consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly and Roger Stone is believed to have played an integral role in Trump hiring Manafort to work on his campaign. Manafort is the fifth person linked to Trump to plead guilty to criminal charges. In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a co-operation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

But Thomas said the effect of this cooperation will likely be important. "I do", he replied.

Which leads to questions about a possible pardon for Manafort. He shook his head and said "no".

"In other words: "'If you don't think we're doing something important, read this, '" he said of the filing.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued a statement, reiterating that point.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign", she wrote. "It is totally unrelated". As part of the plea deal, Manafort will forfeit properties in and around New York City as well as in Alexandria, Virginia.

Friday's charging document replaces the prior indictment and calls for Manafort's forfeiture of real estate, money in four bank accounts and a life insurance policy.