Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

Paul Manafort pleads guilty in deal with special prosecutors, NBC News reports

Paul Manafort pleads guilty in deal with special prosecutors, NBC News reports

A court hearing was scheduled Friday for Paul Manafort amid reports that President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman was nearing a plea deal to avoid trial on charges stemming from work he did for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine. But Friday morning provided the latest, strongest evidence that the probe has not been hindered.

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

Manafort, 69, entered the courtroom with a broad smile, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and mouthed a kiss to his wife. In DC, his seven criminal counts are rewritten as two. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice against the United States and for money laundering, tax fraud, bank reporting and FARA foreign agent disclosure. "Bada bing bada boom", Manafort wrote to a colleague, prosecutors say.

Read the charges against Manafort.

She has been a constant presence at her husband's court hearings and attended every day of testimony at Manafort's trial last month in Virginia.

Note: This article has been updated with news that Manafort's plea deal is a cooperation agreement. Or Trump could be to fire both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would give him the ability to instruct the Justice Department to terminate the Mueller investigation immediately. Because of the Justice Department's official view that a sitting president can not be prosecuted, Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have chose to fight the investigation as a political battle as well as a legal one.

Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, echoed that idea, adding that "the president did nothing wrong".

It was the second version of the statement.

As summarized by Natasha Bertand in The Atlantic, here are a few things that Manafort will likely talk to special counsel Robert Mueller about.

The White House had previously distanced itself from Manafort and downplayed his time leading the Trump campaign. It could be directly related to the Trump campaign or merely tangential.

Prosecutors applied "tremendous pressure on him" he claimed, but Manafort "refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a "deal".

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He also will admit to lying to banks about his assets to gain new loans as a way to supplement his income, according to the filing.

Friday's plea deal comes just three days ahead of when jury selection for his second trial was set to begin.

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

Now the special counsel's office can refocus on the central portion of its investigation - whether there was any co-ordination between the Russian government and the Trump team in 2016.

Writing in the Atlantic, Franklin Foer, who has dived deeply into Manafort's past career , says that he never put much stock in the rumors swirling around the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, but that Manafort may be able to shed light on the shadowy activities of figures such as Roger Stone: "Manafort's friendship with Stone traces back to the 1970s, when Manafort managed Stone's campaign to run the Young Republicans group". And Manafort could conceivably fill Mueller in on that, if it happened. Now, by agreeing to the plea, he no longer faces the expense of another trial and the possibility of more prison time.

After his arrest in October, he was detained by the court in his Alexandria, Virginia, home for more than eight months.

The charges were filed in a superseding criminal information - a formal criminal charge - which lays out the facts of the offense and is often the precursor to the announcement of a deal.

"I plead guilty", Manafort said.

On Friday (Saturday NZT), prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

"Manafort also had close contact with two Russians during the campaign: Oleg Deripaska and Konstantin Kilimnik".

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