Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to 'plead guilty'

Sergio Conner
September 14, 2018

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed with federal prosecutors to plead guilty, NBC News reports.

The new court filing indicates that prosecutors have taken a number of the earlier charges against Manafort, including a money laundering charge that could, on its own, bring a 20-year sentence, and folded them into two charges that would each yield five-year sentences.

A superseding criminal information was filed against Manafort in Washington ahead of a scheduled court appearance later Friday morning.

As a potential witness to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation during the 2016 campaign, Manafort became an early and sustained focus of the Mueller probe.

The deal is the culmination of a federal investigation that has kept Manafort's name in the headlines for more than a year, from summer 2017, when the FBI raided his residence in Virginia, through last October, when the charges first dropped, and into February, when his former business deputy and co-defendant Rick Gates reached his own plea deal with Mueller.

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He faced a second trial in Washington, DC, on seven more counts related to lobbying work he did for Ukraine and witness tampering.

It's unclear which charges Manafort is pleading guilty to, and whether his deal means that he will actually cooperate with prosecutors.

According to the court documents cited by United States media, Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. In the D.C. case, Manafort was facing a judge less sympathetic than the judge who presided over the Virginia trial, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering.

This, in turn, may endear him to President Trump, who has already called Manafort a "good man" who has been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well. "It shows you've admitted your guilt", he said on Friday before a deal was announced. Either he has offered some form of cooperation, one source familiar with the case explained, or the government has concluded that it has hit him with a sufficient number of charges and following through with a second trial is not worth the time and expense. He declined further comment until after the hearing.

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