Manafort Reaches Plea Deal, Agrees to Help Mueller's Russia Investigation

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election meddling as part of a plea deal, prosecutors told a federal court in Washington on Friday. In Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that based on the guidelines, which are determined based on factors such as Manafort's involvement and the nature of the crimes, he faces a range of 210 to 262 months and a $400,000 fine.

The charges against Manafort are related to his Ukrainian consulting work - not Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the central issue in the special counsel's investigation.

President Donald Trump knows that politically, he can't pardon Manafort now, Rossi said.

The special counsel's office added a second potential cooperator against Manafort in late August when another lobbyist for the Ukrainians, Sam Patten, pleaded guilty to a foreign lobbying charge. To all of these questions Manafort responded "I did". But Manafort, whom we can safely assume is one of "the young and attractive lives (and others)" the president once lamented were being destroyed by the investigation, can nearly certainly expect to soon be the subject of a presidential tweetstorm that in no way demeans the highest office in the land.

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.

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.

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Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the bulk of the charges against Manafort, filing new paperwork that includes just two counts that resemble in many ways the original allegations made in an indictment past year.

Manafort "coordinated with a senior Israeli government official" to publicize the story, Mueller charged, seeking to convince the administration that "the Jewish community will take this out on Obama in the [2012 presidential] election if he does nothing". The document shows Manafort intends to plead guilty to two crimes of the seven he faced at trial: conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Manafort also agreed to testify before any grand juries and in any trials in Washington or elsewhere. "He's accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that", said attorney Kevin Downing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement on Manafort.

When Manafort eventually goes for sentencing, the agreement notes that Mueller will let the court know how much Manafort did or did not cooperate. He had another trial coming up this month, and this plea deal was his way of avoiding it. The jury in Virginia found that Manafort hid millions of dollars he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lied to get loans when the political party that was paying him was ousted from power and the funding dried up.

Earlier this year, Manafort criticized his former business associate Rick Gates for cooperating with investigators, saying, "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence". Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

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