Paul Manafort signals he intends to plead guilty before new trial

15 September, 2018, 19:09 | Author: Donnie King
  • Paul Manafort

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will cooperate with the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a dramatic turnaround that deals the USA president a setback.

Friday's announcement was a political blow to Trump's presidency ahead of November 6 congressional elections that will determine whether or not Republicans keep control of Congress.

Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the USA and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses, according to a court filing Friday. Gates pleaded guilty in February and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Some legal experts said that if Trump and his advisers knowingly solicited help from Russian Federation, they may have violated campaign finance laws, and a statute that criminalises conspiracies to impair the functioning of the USA government.

For months, analysts, experts and political talking heads have speculated Trump could reward Manafort with a presidential pardon for holding out on a plea agreement - where he would be asked all sorts of questions about his dealings with the president on the 2016 campaign - and going to trial.

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump. The New York Times said 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. This would suggest that Trump truly means what he says: Manafort was a bit player who has nothing of significance to convey to Mueller.

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. Depending on the sentencing decisions of the judges in the two cases, Manafort, 69, could spend up to 31 years in prison.

"I do", he said repeatedly, waiving each right.

He had steadfastly refused to cooperate with Mueller even as the Virginia jury convicted him for hiding from USA tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans.




A legal source, supportive of the President and familiar with the Manafort case, said the Trump team does not believe Manafort has anything significant on the President to share with the special counsel. On Friday morning, however, that refusal came to an abrupt end. Both Manafort and Gates pleaded "Not Guilty" at the time.

As part of the deal, Manafort has agreed to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with the special counsel investigation.

Still, Friday's move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial.

Manafort had proffered information to the government already, Weissmann said in a federal court in a Washington, DC. It was discontinued and then reinstated in 2016 after investigators caught a series of odd connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. He was campaign chairman when WikiLeaks began publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by hackers that U.S. intelligence has linked to Russian Federation.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's personal lawyer, originally issued a statement that read: "Once again, an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign", the statement read.

Mueller also gained a key co-operator in Manafort, who participated in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Donald Trump Jr took despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's campaign. "In a way, it's another indication there is no evidence of collusion". Trump himself has tried to downplay the role that Manafort played during his 2016 campaign. During the convention, the party's platform on Ukraine was altered in a way that made it more in line with Russian interests.

Prosecutors hold all the cards: If they decide the information Manafort proffers is redundant or offers them little value, it's within their right to pull out of the agreement and continue prosecuting him. "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", he said.

Besides that, prosecutors extracted a guilty plea, a cooperation agreement from Manafort to tell them everything he knows and fork over any documents they request, an admission of guilt to the 10 remaining charges from the Eastern Virginia trial, and likely a multiyear prison sentence for Manafort.

Manafort is still taking a financial hit, forfeiting $45m of criminal assets.

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