Paul Manafort pleads guilty, avoid new trial

Frederick Owens
September 15, 2018

Instead, the new one declared, "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign".

His decision to plead guilty, indicated in a court filing on Friday, came just days before jury selection was set to begin September 17 in Washington, where Mueller accused him of conspiring to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and obstructing justice. All were set to be tried in court in D.C. on September 24th.

Attorney Kevin Downing, with the defense team for Paul Manafort, is seen leaving federal court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. At the moment, there's no indication of what information Manafort might share with the special counsel's office.

One last key detail is that as part of Manafort's plea deal, he will forfeit bank accounts and properties worth $46 million dollars-meaning that the Mueller investigation just paid for itself more than twice over. The former includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Accounts, and the latter includes the charge of witness tampering.

Manafort has aggressively fought the charges against him and taken shots at his co-defendant, Rick Gates, who cut a deal with prosecutors earlier this year that included a cooperation agreement. The prosecutors recommended a sentence of 17 to 21 years as part of the plea agreement (pdf). He is 69 years old.

There's been plenty of speculation that Manafort could be rescued by a presidential pardon. Trump's former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in NY.

Investigators might seek Manafort's testimony on topics not directly related to the Trump campaign. His agreement is sweeping: "any and all matters as to what the Government deems the cooperation relevant".

Manafort and his former deputy Rick Gates were the first people charged in the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 us presidential election. Now, by agreeing to the plea, he no longer faces the expense of another trial and the possibility of more prison time.

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He led the campaign in mid-2016 when Mr Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.

Those crimes center on his failure to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, and hiding Ukrainian payments that reached $60 million. Gates testified against Manafort in the Virginia trial, saying his former boss had directed him to commit the fraud.

In addition to the witness tampering counts, Manafort had been formally charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, conspiring to launder money and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department about the nature of his work.

In the courtroom, Manafort stared straight ahead, while Weissman read a condensed version of the litany of illegal acts to which Manafort is pleading guilty.

The plea deal would allow Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering.

The ex-campaign chair reportedly lied to Trump and said his plane had "mechanical problems" on July 12 so that he would have to say in Indianapolis, where he arranged a breakfast between the candidate and the governor. He may have been party to campaign conversations about how to handle news of the Russian Federation investigation.

The decision by Manafort to provide evidence in exchange for leniency on sentencing, announced in court on Friday, is a stunning development in the long-running inquiry into whether any associates of US President Donald Trump may have conspired with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 election. Manafort reportedly met twice with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign.

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