Paul Manafort expected to plead guilty, avoid second trial

Howard TerrySep 15, 2018

Paul Manafort, the longtime USA lobbyist and former election campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and witness tampering, and prosecutors said he had agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort struck a plea deal with Robert Mueller's team that includes cooperating with the special counsel on additional investigations and undergoing questioning from prosecutors without his attorney present.

Manafort is expected to appear in court later Friday morning (local time). The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial.

Manafort was facing a second trial set to begin on Monday in Washington on charges related to Ukrainian political consulting work.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. And last month Trump praised Manafort for being "brave" and refusing to "break" to take a plea deal. Law enforcement officials have come to suspect that Manafort hopes he will be pardoned by the president, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

Manafort was accused of concealing from the IRS tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from his Ukrainian patrons and conspiring to launder that money through offshore accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere.

Manafort was to go on trial again in Washington next week.

He's also indicted former Manafort business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, now believed to be in Russia, for obstruction of justice and 25 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering in the USA 2016 presidential election. Manafort-through his guilty verdicts in last month's trial stemming from various financial charges and his guilty plea on Friday-has already deepened our knowledge of blatant corruption and illegality among those close to Trump. The plea deal means he will not stand trial.

Manafort will forfeit homes in NY and Virginia, and cough up the contents of five bank accounts, according to reports.

Manafort was in attendance at the now-infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between himself, Trump's son Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a group of Russians led by a Kremlin-linked lawyer, as Inquisitr has covered.

FILE - Paul Manafort, right, campaign manager to Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, and his assistant Rick Gates stand on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 17, 2016.

Manafort is still subject to whatever sentence is imposed in the Virginia trial. "It is totally unrelated".

The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon. Those counts included laundering $18 million of the $75 million they made acting as unregistered foreign agents while lobbying on behalf of the Government of Ukraine between 2006-2016 and making false statements to the Justice Department.

The move toward a guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously - but unsuccessfully - against Mueller's inquiry.

Even though the Manafort case was tangential to the central thrust of Mr Mueller's inquiry - relating to his work as a lobbyist, and not possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign - this still marks a significant development in the special counsel's investigation.

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