Manafort Strikes Deal to Cooperate with Mueller Investigation

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

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering, court documents indicated on Friday.

The details of Manafort's plea were not immediately clear, including whether he would be providing any information to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of any deal.

That could be potentially damaging for Donald Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as Manafort was present at the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 where members of the campaign met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Friday's announcement was a political blow to Trump's presidency ahead of November 6 congressional elections that will determine whether or not Republicans keep control of Congress.

According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the U.S. includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort agreed to plead to conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses. He could also get a pardon from Trump, which would set off a political firestorm. "It is totally unrelated". As CNN noted, the "cooperation agreement" means that other charges would be dropped as long as Manafort provided "successful cooperation".

He had said repeatedly that he would not cooperate with Mueller but reassessed his situation after his trial last month on separate charges.

Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to Trump who was also a close campaign aide, pleaded guilty in December to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian Federation and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.

That posture drew plaudits from Trump, who praised his former campaign chairman for his unwillingness to cooperate with the special counsel.

The once-powerful Republican operative was found guilty last month of tax and bank fraud charges that could land him in prison for up to 80 years. This plea agreement doesn't preclude that eventuality, although if Manafort incriminates others in Mr Trump's circle - or the president himself - a pardon seems unlikely in the extreme.

Paul Manafort (centre) is heckled as he walks into court. "I'm confident", he replied, without saying whether Manafort's lawyers had given him this assurance.

Manafort is due in federal court for what the Justice Department called "an arraignment and plea agreement hearing" on Friday morning, following the release of new charging documents against him.

That trial was supposed to start next week in Washington.

Rubin also notes that Mueller's team secured $46 million in civil asset forfeiture from Manafort - covering much of the cost of the investigation, which Trump has ludicrously criticized. "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign", she wrote.

The charges do not relate to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

But all of Manafort's crimes were Russia-related.

The case was brought by Mueller's team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election. Patten worked with Manafort's Russian associate Kilimnik through 2017 and admitted in court to illegally using a straw purchaser to buy Trump inaugural tickets for an oligarch.

On Aug. 31, Samuel Patten, 47, an American who is the business partner of a Russian national accused by the special counsel's office of having ties to Russian intelligence, pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.