Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort 'strikes plea deal'

Pauline Gross
September 14, 2018

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes at a hearing Friday morning, officials said.

As part of the deal, Manafort, 69, could be required to cooperate with Mueller's probe into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russian Federation in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Jurors in Virginia last month found Manafort guilty, in a separate case, on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, giving special counsel Robert Mueller a victory in the first trial arising from his investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 USA election.

He was facing a second trial Monday on charges related to Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.

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. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. But Manafort has not been charged with anything related to the campaign.

As a potential witness to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation during the 2016 campaign, Manafort became an early and sustained focus of the Mueller probe.

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Manafort, 69, earned tens of millions of dollars lobbying for foreign governments and spent that money freely, including on a $15,000 ostrich coat, landscaping and real estate.

The longtime political strategist was scheduled to stand trial in Washington on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty".

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.

Manafort's decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal". Even after his indictment last October, though, prosecutors say he continued to commit crimes by tampering with witnesses.

Other reports by GizPress

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