Ex-Trump campaign boss reaches plea deal

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

Bill Hennessy Reuters

Paul Manafort has made a decision to plead guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and avoid a second criminal trial, but it's unclear whether he will cooperate with Mueller's inquiry into Russian election interference.

The investigation looked at such interactions "before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications", prosecutors wrote.

Manafort was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia.

Several defendants have cooperated or pleaded guilty in connection with the special counsel probe, including Manafort's former right-hand man Rick Gates; former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort; W. Samuel Patten, who admitted arranging for a Ukrainian businessman to illegally donate to Trump's inauguration; and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail last week after pleading guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the Special Counsel's office, the filing "alleges a conspiracy against the United States (money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice) and a conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering)".

A juror in the Virginia case said she discounted testimony from Gates but found the documents that prosecutors introduced to be "overwhelming" in favor of conviction.

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

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The allegations do not involve his work with the Trump campaign. It's the type of filing typically seen before a plea deal. The president agreed to wait at least until the investigation concludes, Giuliani has said.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon.

The D.C. trial that was averted by the new plea deal stood to pull back the curtain on the world of covert lobbying on behalf foreign powers in the nation's capital.

Judge TS Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 other charges after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. "Such respect for a courageous man!"

And during his Virginia trial in August, Manafort's lawyers spent considerable time painting Mr Gates as a liar, embezzler, philanderer and turncoat who would say anything to get a lighter prison sentence.

Over a 40-year career, Manafort redefined and expanded Washington's influence industry domestically and internationally, parlaying successful campaigns into lobbying opportunities. Even after his indictment last October, though, prosecutors say he continued to commit crimes by tampering with witnesses.

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