Look Who’s "Breaking" Now: Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Takes Plea Deal

15 September, 2018, 12:15 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel

MSNBC's Steve Kornacki asked the Harvard Law professor on Friday about the news that the former Trump campaign chairman is pleading guilty to the charges against him as part of a cooperation agreement with Robert Mueller.

But given Manafort's pre-existing financial connections to Russia, his agreement to help prosecutors with further investigations will most certainly feed speculation and theories that there's more to these relationships than we're now publicly aware of, beyond what we've been told about Russian lobbyists offering stolen emails and data from Hillary Clinton's campaign to Trump's team.

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

"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence", Manafort said after the Gates plea deal earlier this year.

The deal gives special counsel Robert Mueller a key cooperator who led the Trump election effort for a crucial stretch during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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The deal allows Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington.

Schiff noted that Mueller would want to know what Manafort can tell him about the "background to the Trump Tower meeting, what took place at the Trump Tower meeting, and what took place after the Trump Tower meeting".

One of the potential witnesses against Manafort was Sam Patten, who pleaded guilty on August 31 to failing to register as a Ukrainian agent.

The plea agreement says Manafort agrees to cooperate in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant. He also has entered his guilty plea before the runup to the mid-term elections, avoiding the damaging anti-Trump headlines that could have emerged from a new trial in Washington. While President Donald Trump is not mentioned in Friday's filing, nor is Manafort's role in his campaign, the news of the cooperation comes as the President continued to lambast the Mueller investigation on Twitter this week. The plea deal also applies to 10 additional counts on which that jury could not reach a consensus.

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.

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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 a year ago. But, in the end, the Mueller investigation will likely come down to one central question: Did senior members of the Trump campaign, with the explicit knowledge of Trump himself, actively work with Russian government actors to help sway the election so that Trump would win? Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.

Reuters reported that Manafort, 69, has agreed with Mueller to admit charges of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering.

A White House spokeswoman quickly sought to distance Trump from the plea deal, saying Manafort's admission of guilt was "totally unrelated" to Trump.

Before Manafort's appearance, there was some discussion that he would plead guilty without cooperating and perhaps later receive a presidential pardon. Yet, Jackson said the request appeared to relate more to concerns about the political affiliation of Washington residents, rather than a unique amount of pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors "applied tremendous pressure on him and. he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal, ' " the president tweeted last month.

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