Former Trump campaign manager to plead guilty in deal with Mueller

Former Trump campaign manager to plead guilty in deal with Mueller

Paul Manafort signalled Friday he intends to plead guilty ahead of a second trial in the prosecutors filed new charging documents against Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

Manafort on Friday pled guilty to two federal charges in a deal that includes cooperation with special counsel Robert Muelle's investigation.

Prosecutors will drop the five remaining charges in DC federal court against Manafort, including money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, violating federal foreign lobbying law and lying to the Department of Justice. Kilimnik has not appeared in court, though Manafort's plea Friday admits that he committed his crimes in conspiracy with both Gates and Kilimnik.

The trial would have focused on allegations he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.

Manafort, in a trial set to begin September 24 in federal court in Washington, is facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering.

Paul Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, after many months of playing the silent tough guy, would not be surprising to anyone who ever endured the ordeal of facing a federal criminal prosecution.

Manafort was even praised by Trump for letting the first trial go to court and not making any sort of deal, unlike Michael Cohen, who made one.

There's been plenty of speculation that Manafort could be rescued by a presidential pardon.

Taking the plea deal is a stunning reversal of legal strategy for Manafort, who endured a three-week trial in Eastern Virginia in which the government presented a highly compelling case to extract guilty verdicts on eight of 18 counts.

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Prosecutors say that Manafort directed a large-scale lobbying operation in the USA for Ukrainian interests without registering with the Justice Department as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely overlap with the conduct alleged in an indictment past year. The White House said in a statement that the agreement had "absolutely nothing to do" with the president or his 2016 campaign.

At the time of Gates' plea, Manafort issued a statement saying he "had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence".

As part of the plea deal with Mueller, Manafort agreed to forfeit three of his homes and two apartments in NY as well as several bank accounts. According to NBC News, congressional investigators who are examining the meeting are "focused on determining whether it included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party". "It is totally unrelated".

Trump has sought advice from his lawyers on the possibility of pardoning Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, his attorney Rudy Giuliani previously told The Washington Post, and was counseled against pardoning anyone involved in the ongoing Mueller probe.

It was not immediately clear if, as part of the plea deal with Mueller, Manafort would cooperate and provide any information to the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

President Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.

Prosecutors had filed new charging documents against Manafort. But Manafort's guilty plea - and, one could argue, other developments like it - "underscores the seriousness of this investigation", said Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.

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