Paul Manafort and special counsel close to deal for guilty plea

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

ABC News reported Thursday that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, has made a tentative plea deal with prosecutors over charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the ABC News report.

Word of the agreement comes as Manafort's second trial was slated to begin later this month in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The tentative plea deal reportedly came after Manafort was found guilty last month by a federal jury sitting in northern Virginia on eight counts of tax and bank fraud charges, but ahead of Manafort's upcoming trial on additional federal charges in the nation's capital.

"Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation", the report says.

If Manafort simply pleads guilty and makes clear that he hasn't given evidence to the government, that could increase his favor with President Trump, who already has faulted what he calls Manafort's "unfair" treatment by the Justice Department. At that point, Manafort would not be able to assert his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination as it relates to the two cases against him.

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Trump's attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was quoted earlier on Thursday saying that the president's team remained in "open communication" with Manafort's as part of an agreement to share information, renewing speculation that Trump may pardon the former aide for his crimes.

Indications have mounted throughout this week that a plea deal was in the works. One of the prosecutors, Andrew Weissman, confirmed in court that Manafort was cooperating with the government's investigation.

The defense has planned to show that the special counsel had targeted Manafort because he had headed Trump's presidential campaign.

A pretrial conference scheduled for Friday morning, rescheduled late Thursday night. "Paul Manafort is a good man", he said after the Virginia jury returned its verdict.

"Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign", Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Friday.

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