Paul Manafort, Robert Mueller reach tentative plea deal

Frederick Owens
September 15, 2018

US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to reaching a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The report of a tentative deal comes days before jury selection is expected to begin for Manafort's trial in D.C., which is set to kick off with opening statements on September 24.

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. And it suggests that investigators, who have brought charges against four Trump aides and two groups of Russian operatives, still have other targets in their sights.

Manafort faces a second trial on charges he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine, conspired to launder money and tampered with witnesses.

"There's no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there's nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man", Giuliani told Politico.

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She has been a constant presence at her husband's court hearings and attended every day of testimony at Manafort's trial last month in Virginia.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had. A pretrial hearing, postponed this week, is scheduled for Friday. A representative from the special counsel's office also declined to comment.

Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner and the campaign's deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Trump has repeatedly come to Manafort's defense. In private discussions with his lawyers, Trump has raised the option of pardoning Manafort. In ruling against Manafort's request for a change of venue, Jackson said she could reconsider if they are unable to qualify enough jurors to proceed to jury selection in the case, scheduled to begin September 17.

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