Manafort averts 2nd trial with plea deal, promises to cooperate with Mueller

Glen Norman
September 15, 2018

Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) in federal court.

In the Washington case, prosecutors accused him of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not telling the Justice Department about a multimillion-dollar campaign to improve the image of Yanukovych and his Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S. Jurors would have heard about how he hired prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs to help him, along with several European former elected officials.

The probe has cast a shadow over the Republican's presidency and Manafort's decision to cooperate deals a setback to Mr Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6.

Esquire's Charles Pierce wrote that with Manafort's guilty plea and cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, Pence "has one foot in the barrel now, too".

He was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces seven to 10 years in prison in that case.

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, which could spell serious trouble for the president, former prosecutors agree.

He smiled broadly as he entered the courtroom Friday but gave terse and barely audible answers during questioning from the judge.

"Flipping" Paul Manafort (above right) was "a big win" for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one expert says.

On Friday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "co-operation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

Trump's Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a brief statement on the issue Friday. "It is totally unrelated". His business partner Rick Gates, who testified against him in his trial in Virginia last month, pleaded guilty to two criminal charges, including lying to investigators.

In-person jury selection for his Washington trial was set to start Monday, with opening statements scheduled for September 24 before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

When the Eastern Virginia jury found him guilty in August, that conviction carried with it a maximum 80-year prison sentence. He volunteered that year to work for free on the Trump campaign, shepherding the candidate through the Republican National Convention before being pushed aside as questions about his influence-peddling emerged. Trump's former personal lawyer/fixer (and RNC deputy finance chair) Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations (2 campaign finance counts implicate President Trump).

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. He did not elaborate on the agreement.

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty". In addition to failing to register as a foreign agent himself, Manafort admitted to taking steps to prevent the firms and lobbyists he hired from registering as foreign agents.

A court filing Friday shows a plea hearing is set for later in the morning.

Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in NY, says it's uncommon for criminal information to include that level of detail. Both charges are related to his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence", Manafort said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.

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

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