Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Manafort to plead guilty, cooperate with Mueller probe, prosecutors say

Paul Manafort looks on as Donald Trump appears at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. A superseding crim Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel
Jay Anderson | 15 September, 2018, 12:14

A plea deal by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to cooperate with US prosecutors in their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election suggests he could shed light on unanswered questions revolving around the campaign, legal experts said on Friday. A jury found him guilty on eight counts of submitting false tax returns, failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts and bank fraud.

Manafort, in a trial set to begin September 24 in federal court in Washington, is facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering.

Kilimnik has not appeared in court, though Manafort's plea Friday admits that he committed his crimes in conspiracy with both Gates and Kilimnik.

His DC trial was set to begin September 24. But Friday morning provided the latest, strongest evidence that the probe has not been hindered.

The deal allows Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering.

It was not immediately clear what information Manafort, a long-time Republican political consultant who ran the campaign as it took off in mid-2016, could offer prosecutors about Mr Trump.

Over a 40-year career, Manafort redefined and expanded Washington's influence industry domestically and internationally, parlaying successful campaigns into lobbying opportunities.

On another conspiracy-related front, as Natasha Bertrand points out today, Manafort might be in a good position to shed light on what exactly former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos - who has testified as part of his own plea deal that he learned that Russian Federation had stolen dirt on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" - might have told campaign higher ups about this at the time, another big unknown. But as Newt Gingrich observed on August 19, 2016, on Fox News: "Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this campaign to where it is right now".




With today's agreement, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy against the United States including money laundering, tax fraud, operating as a foreign agent in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying to federal investigators; and witness tampering during his pre-trial release period.

Prosecutors have filed new charging documents against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, signaling he may plead guilty ahead of a second trial next week.

Manafort was in attendance at the now-infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between himself, Trump's son Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a group of Russians led by a Kremlin-linked lawyer, as Inquisitr has covered.

The conspiracy to obstruct justice charge is based on allegations of alleged witness tampering after Manafort was already initially charged with several crimes related to his work for the Ukrainian government.

Trump last month praised his former campaign aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

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. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.

Any light Manafort could shed on that meeting and other episodes could deepen the Mueller probe, legal experts said, increasing the pressure on Trump.

The president tweeted "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal.

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