President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes at a hearing Friday morning, officials said. While President Donald Trump is not mentioned in Friday's filing, nor is Manafort's role in his campaign, the news of the cooperation comes as the President continued to lambast the Mueller investigation on Twitter this week. The two conspiracy counts he pleaded guilty to on Friday carry up to five years in prison, though Manafort's sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation.
Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely overlap with the conduct alleged in an indictment previous year. In fact, prosecutors said, Manafort had already begun giving information to the investigators, who are led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The allegations do not involve his work with the Trump campaign.
Manafort, 69, was convicted last month of bank and tax fraud after a trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
"The government has gotten everything that it could possibly want", one former top U.S. Justice Department Criminal Division attorney said. "Mueller would not have given him a deal unless Manafort was able to help Mueller make a case against someone else or significantly strengthen an existing case". Places like Virginia and NY, both of which have Democratic attorneys general, could prosecute Manafort on state tax violations, for instance. They can ask for a 25 percent departure from the sentencing guidelines. "Now that Mr. Manafort is cooperating, we may soon have answers".
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Jackson read Manafort's plea agreement.
Manafort's agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly" could put to the test U.S. President Donald Trump's denials of campaign collusion with Russian Federation, lawyers not involved in the case said. In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon. "The defendant's lawyers would usually try to put some protections in there against that". Manafort's decision could be unwelcome news for Trump, who tapped the consultant to serve as his campaign chairman in June 2016 as he was securing the Republican presidential nomination.
A presidential pardon now is "off the table; it's too little, too late", Dershowitz explained.
"It's still in play, but he's going to give everything up [on Trump]", former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman said. "People aren't going to say they will run against Trump unless they have the infrastructure but I've been trying to persuade people that it may not be that hard", he added.
In the current Washington case, prosecutors were expected to lay out in detail Manafort's political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.
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Trump and several members of his administration were quoted have called the book "fiction and fabrication". He said his book "is as carefully done as you can do an excavation of the reality of what goes on".
Even though the Manafort case was tangential to the central thrust of Mr Mueller's inquiry - relating to his work as a lobbyist, and not possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign - this still marks a significant development in the special counsel's investigation.
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. Manafort faces potentially 10 years as part of this plea agreement.
A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.
In court on Friday, Manafort blew a kiss to his wife, Kathleen, before the hearing. "It's pathetic to have steadfastly stayed with a non-cooperation strategy only to have to cave at the end".
Prosecutors had filed new charging documents against Manafort.
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