Trump ex-campaign head Manafort changes mind, cooperates in Russian Federation probe

Paul Manafort

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to two federal crimes after cutting a deal with U.S. prosecutors and agreeing to co-operate with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

As part of routine plea hearing questions, she asked Manafort, "Has anybody made any promises to you?"

Those crimes center on his failure to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, and hiding Ukrainian payments that reached $60 million.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Paul Manafort seated (L) as his lawyer speaks in court.

Jackson's ruling clears the way for Manafort to be tried later this month on several felony charges related to his lobbying and political consulting work on behalf of Ukrainian political interests.

Esquire's Charles Pierce wrote that with Manafort's guilty plea and cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, Pence "has one foot in the barrel now, too". In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

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One of the potential witnesses against Manafort was Sam Patten, who pleaded guilty on August 31 to failing to register as a Ukrainian agent.

Manafort was accused of concealing from the IRS tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from his Ukrainian patrons and conspiring to launder that money through offshore accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere.

News that Manafort has chose to break is quite surprising given that he had the option when facing his first trial over the summer.

Those were among the first charges stemming from Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort is pleading guilty to charges the special counsel filed Friday on conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign". The plea agreement requires him to cooperate completely with the government, which includes giving interviews without his attorney present and testifying before any grand juries or at any trials.

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President Trump's legal team signaled earlier this week that they weren't anxious about the prospect of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort negotiating a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller - in fact, some lawyers close to the case suggested a plea deal could be beneficial for both Manafort and Trump.

The charges in the information say that Manafort will have to forfeit property that was derived from or traceable to his offenses.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday that Manafort "knows nothing harmful to the president and the plea is the best evidence of that". Trump's former personal lawyer/fixer (and RNC deputy finance chair) Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations (2 campaign finance counts implicate President Trump).

As part of the run-up to the second trial, Manafort's lawyers filed hundreds of pages in court to fight prosecutors' allegations - having brought two appeals unsuccessfully - and his legal fees mounted to more than $1 million, according to two people familiar with his case. Manafort conceded did this work covertly and intentionally covered his tracks, subsequently lying to the Justice Department about whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. "It is totally unrelated".

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

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