Paul Manafort signals he intends to plead guilty before new trial

15 September, 2018, 08:30 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP

Federal prosecutors filed new charges against former Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort for conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to new court documents released Friday.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort struck a plea deal with Robert Mueller's team that includes cooperating with the special counsel on additional investigations and undergoing questioning from prosecutors without his attorney present.

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.

A jury in that earlier trial found Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Manafort did not contest the other five counts against him.

"He wanted to be able to make sure his family remained safe and live a good life". Instead, they focus on financial crimes and Manafort's Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.

Then came Friday's extraordinary development when Manafort agreed to provide any information asked of him, testify whenever asked and even work undercover if necessary.

But Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has received a lot of flak over the a year ago for defending Trump at times despite being a self-described liberal, says Team Trump should be deeply concerned about Manafort's agreement to fully cooperate with Mueller investigation, though he stressed that it's unlikely Manafort would have any evidence that could lead to impeachment.

The details of the plea agreement, and whether Manafort would cooperate with prosecutors, were not immediately known. To accomplish this goal, he hoped to spread the allegation of anti-Semitism against former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a maneuver that was supposed to bolster the standing in Washington of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

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Manafort attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian representatives and top campaign officials, including Trump's son and son-in-law, who expected to receive derogatory information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Appearing in federal court in D.C. Friday morning, Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a statement, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign".

In brief responses, Manafort, 69, said he had sufficient time to consider his plea and that he was of sound mind. The response from Trump and the White House has been (and continues to be) that none of these charges show any sort of collusion between Trump and Russian Federation, and that's absolutely true. 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.

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters news agency on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. Manafort faces up to a decade in prison after the Virginia jury verdict, and a conviction in Washington could have increased his prison time.

Prosecutors indicated Manafort will work with Mueller's team, which is examining potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election. The reason: "the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth". He will also forfeit many of his assets as part of the deal; worth about $46 million, they would single-handedly cover the cost of the Mueller investigation.

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