Published: Sat, September 15, 2018

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to 'plead guilty'

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to 'plead guilty'

Prosecutors say that Manafort directed a large scale lobbying operation in the United States for Ukrainian interests without registering with the Justice Department as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

In recent days, as the Manafort plea talks were ongoing, the President's legal team expressed confidence that if Manafort signed a cooperation agreement it wouldn't have anything to do with the President, according to a source briefed on their thinking.

In addition to the financial and lobbying charges against Manafort, the special counsel's team has said it's investigating allegations he colluded with Russian Federation while working for Trump. The special counsel's office issued the following statement regarding the plea: "Court has scheduled an arraignment and plea agreement hearing today for USA v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., 69, of Alexandria, Va., at 11 a.m".

Earlier this year, Rick Gates, who served as deputy chairman for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to charges of plotting.

Prosecutors filed new charging documents against Manafort which contained a criminal information, a document that can only be filed with a defendant's consent and typically signals a deal has been reached.

Also on August 21, a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, found former Trump campaign chairman Manafort guilty on eight of 18 charges of filing false tax returns, failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts and bank fraud.

Manafort's conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller's investigation. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts. But Manafort's guilty plea - and, one could argue, other developments like it - "underscores the seriousness of this investigation", said Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. And the judge may decide to run those sentences consecutively or concurrently. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges were filed in a superseding criminal information - a formal criminal charge - which lays out the facts of the offense and is often the precursor to the announcement of a deal. Moscow denies US intelligence agency allegations that it interfered in the political process.

On another conspiracy-related front, as Natasha Bertrand points out today, Manafort might be in a good position to shed light on what exactly former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos - who has testified as part of his own plea deal that he learned that Russian Federation had stolen dirt on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" - might have told campaign higher ups about this at the time, another big unknown.

Which leads to questions about a possible pardon for Manafort.

Jackson read Manafort's plea agreement. She told him, "You are agreeing to cooperate fully and truthfully" with the special counsel's office. Manafort said "I am". Addressing reporters outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said that his client's decision was made in the interest of keeping his family "safe" and noted that it related to Ukrainian lobbying work that "dates back many years".

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