Manafort agrees to plead guilty after deal with special counsel

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Donald Trump's time in office is running out now that former campaign manager Paul Manafort has flipped and is cooperating with Russian Federation investigators, a Democratic strategist predicts.

Two years after being forced from his position as chair of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, 10 months removed from his indictment on multiple counts of unregistered foreign lobbying and financial fraud, and just days before his second trial was set to begin, Paul Manafort has thrown in the towel.

Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

During Manafort's Virginia trial, the president had spoken spoke warmly of him.

Manafort must also cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly" with the Justice Department in any and all matters that the government finds his cooperation to be relevant.

In the new filing, 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 past year.

A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.

"There's no limit on what they can request", the former DOJ attorney said. It's entirely up to Mueller and his team based on the value of the information they receive from Manafort.

Manafort, 69, also pleaded guilty to two criminal counts on Friday (local time), becoming the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation. That's boilerplate for most plea agreements.

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If true, that would be quite a development because as Politico reported, "Many Trump aides and advisers have said they believe the president is likely to grant Manafort a pardon on all the charges, which Trump has suggested amounted to prosecutorial overkill aimed at persuading Manafort to implicate Trump in wrongdoing in connection with the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation".

Prosecutors said "no additional criminal charges will be brought against the defendant for his heretofore disclosed participation in criminal activity" and will drop remaining counts "at the time of sentence or at the completion of his successful cooperation, whichever is later".

First, Schiff noted, Mueller would likely want to know from Manafort as much as possible about the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort attended in the full expectation of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government.

The key question will be what Manafort actually can tell Mueller and his associates.

"It's still in play, but he's going to give everything up [on Trump]", former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman said. In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a co-operation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon. "Now, he plays out the string, but I think he cuts it", Litman said.

Given Manafort's close involvement with Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, the news could constitute a major blow to President Trump as he tries to contain the damage from Mueller's probe. What might Trump's former campaign chair have to say?

It was unclear whether such an agreement would include his cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling during Trump's 2016 campaign. "From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself". The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause. In conversations with Mueller's team, he is making good on what he told ABC earlier this summer: "that his loyalty to Trump is no longer his lodestar". He faces up to 80 years in prison on those charges. "It's pathetic to have steadfastly stayed with a non-cooperation strategy only to have to cave at the end".

Manafort agreed to work with investigators in the Russian Federation probe.

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