Paul Manafort accepts plea deal, will cooperate with Mueller probe

On Friday morning, former Trump campaign manager and Washington power broker Paul Manafort entered guilty pleas on charges he conspired to defraud the U.S. government and obstruct justice.

Part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, Mr. Manafort’s admission of guilt relates to a charge of money laundering and a second charge of attempted witness tampering.  He faces up to an additional 10 years behind bars.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, federal prosecutors agreed to drop a raft of pending charges, including tax fraud, failure to register as a foreign agent report foreign bank accounts.

The plea arrangement also stipulates Manafort cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump campaign involvement with Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Although Manafort’s attorneys had said previously no negotiated agreement with the Justice Department would be considered, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing told reporters the settlement brought his client peace of mind.

“His family was able to remain safe and live a good life. He’s accepted responsibility, this is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that,” Downing said.

The plea agreement allows Manafort to avoid a second trial, which was expected to begin Sept. 17.

Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of of fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose bank accounts in a separate trial in August.  A Virginia jury was deadlocked on 10 other charges.

Tried in August, federal prosecutors’ case against Manafort are unrelated to his service with the Trump presidential campaign, but revolve around his lobbying activity on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian officials.

Mr. Manafort stepped down as Trump campaign manager shortly after his contacts with Ukrainian and Russian officials came to light.

Friday’s plea deal has sparked conjecture over how useful Manafort could be to Mueller’s Russia probe.

An agreement which hinges on Manafort’s cooperation, Mueller’s team will certainly seek any information related to Manafort’s participation in the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which BuzzFeed reported last week has now sparked an inquiry of Russian bank transactions which occurred shortly thereafter.

Commenting on the outcome of Manafort’s plea agreement, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said:

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong.”

Manafort’s guilty plea and cooperation places him alongside former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who entered a guilty plea for making false statements.  Mr. Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller in 2017.

In addition to Friday’s plea deal, Manafort is awaiting sentencing in for his August trial.


[CNN] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Business Insider]