Paul Manafort cooperating with investigators in Mueller probe

Geraldine Edwards
September 15, 2018

In this photo taken July 21, 2016, then-Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort stands between the then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump during a walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Trump's former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on 8 charges of financial fraud, but as he's staring down the barrel of another trial, he's decided to take make a deal with Mueller. In exchange, Manafort was assured that he will spend no more than a decade in prison for the two charges, so long as he fully coöperates with Mueller. As a part of the deal, he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

In return, he will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team.

No matter how you look at it, this deal has to be seen as a massive victory for Mueller and his special counsel team. The President has been quite publicly supportive of Manafort since criminal charges were first filed against his former campaign chairman.

Under the deal, Manafort is required to describe any and all criminal activity he is aware of. He was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia.

"There's no limit on what they can request", the former DOJ attorney said.

Jackson read Manafort's plea agreement.

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In a statement Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Manafort plea "had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign".

The two conspiracy counts he admitted to on Friday each carry up to five years, though Manafort's sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation.

"But here", she said, "there's none".

Moscow rejects the conclusions of USA intelligence agencies that it interfered in the American democratic process and Trump denies campaign collusion. "This is an existential threat to the Presidency", tweeted Mitchell Epner, a former assistant U.S. attorney. "People aren't going to say they will run against Trump unless they have the infrastructure but I've been trying to persuade people that it may not be that hard", he added.

Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel's Russian Federation probe and pleaded guilty to two federal crimes as part of Friday's plea deal.

There was some concern about the risk to Mr Mueller's investigation faced going into the Manafort trials.

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The White House distanced Trump from the man who helped get him elected in November 2016 against the odds in a bitterly contested campaign in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutor Andrew Weismann told the court that the deal includes a "cooperation agreement", which could pose yet another major legal headache to Trump.

"From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself", Giuliani told Politico on Thursday.

There's been plenty of speculation that Manafort could be rescued by a presidential pardon. Kilimnik has not appeared in court, though Manafort's plea Friday admits that he committed his crimes in conspiracy with both Gates and Kilimnik. "It's pathetic to have steadfastly stayed with a non-cooperation strategy only to have to cave at the end".

Back in August, after Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump praised Manafort for refusing to "break", suggesting that Manafort holding strong was very much in his interest.

Prosecutors said he spread stories and secretly coordinated with an Israeli government official to publicize the idea that a U.S. Cabinet official was an anti-Semite for supporting Tymoshenko, "who in turn had formed a political alliance with a Ukraine party that espoused anti-Semitic views", court documents said. Manafort would be hard-pressed to bend the truth around him. "He did so knowingly, intentionally and willfully", Weissmann said. "If Manafort says anything that's false, everything, everything goes away, including this plea agreement".

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