Former Trump campaign manager Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

Bill Hennessy Reuters

US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed on Friday (Saturday NZ Time) to cooperate with the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation as he pleaded guilty to federal charges and avoided a second trial that could have exposed him to even greater punishment.

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".

In the trial scheduled in Washington, Manafort faces charges of conspiring against the United States, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist, making false statements and conspiring to obstruct justice by trying to influence witnesses.

But Schiff did suggest a few possible ways in which Manafort - who was convicted last month on tax and bank fraud charges and faced more legal jeopardy - could shed light on questions involving possible Trump campaign conspiracy with Russian sabotage of the election or obstruction of justice.

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Manafort's plea, to charges tied to his Ukrainian political consulting work and unrelated to his time with the campaign, came just three days before he was to have stood trial for a second time.

He led the campaign when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty". To all of these questions Manafort responded "I did".

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.

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"There's nothing he can testify to that would probably lend weight to impeachment because he didn't have close contact with President Trump while he was president", said Dershowitz. Trump had not said he would pardon Manafort, but nor had he ruled it out. "Manafort for example could implicate not only the president in the Trump Tower meeting - but also others who were involved such as Don Jr. or [Jared] Kushner", former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told conservative writer Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post.

Friday's charging document replaces the prior indictment and calls for Manafort's forfeiture of real estate, money in four bank accounts and a life insurance policy. He's accepted responsibility, and this is conduct that dates back many years.

When Manafort eventually goes for sentencing, the agreement notes that Mueller will let the court know how much Manafort did or did not cooperate. Mueller has also gotten guilty pleas from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, while Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a case referred to the Southern District of NY by Mueller's office. Any deal would not be final until Manafort admits guilt before the judge, who would need to approve the plea.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in a jail booking photo taken in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 12, 2018. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

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According to the charging document, "Manafort sought to have the (Barack Obama) Administration understand that 'the Jewish community will take this out on Obama on Election Day if he does nothing'".

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