Paul Manafort Agrees to Plead Guilty in Mueller Probe

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Five other charges were dropped in the new court filing.

As with his conviction last month on other charges, Mr. Manafort's Friday guilty plea concerns his business as a political fixer long before he worked for the Trump campaign.

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

Manafort is due in federal court for what the Justice Department called "an arraignment and plea agreement hearing" on Friday morning, following the release of new charging documents against him.

Mueller announced a new superseding criminal information against Manafort.

The plea deal precludes the need for the second trial, sparing Manafort the steep legal fees of a second round of prosecution. He had another trial coming up this month, and this plea deal was his way of avoiding it.

Another conviction would cap a dramatic fall for the worldwide power broker and confidant of Republican presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan.

Prosecutors then detail efforts they say he made to hide the operation, including lying to investigators in 2016 and again in 2017.

He led the campaign in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.

"If Manafort is willing to give Mueller information about Trump's contacts with Russian Federation, whether the contacts were direct or indirect, then this really is a disaster for Trump and his associates". But by the mid-2000s, there were signs that his consulting career had slumped, and at times his finances appeared to be shaky. In the filing on Friday, Mueller's office said Manafort laundered more than $30 million from his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, then "used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States".


Manafort made a similar unsuccessful request in his bank fraud and tax evasion trial in northern Virginia.

Manafort says he intends to plead guilty to charges including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice relating to his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

Manafort had the choice to consolidate both cases into one but declined. He is also accused of tampering with witnesses in the case. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

It's unclear how a guilty plea might alter his ultimate sentence, and some lawyers have questioned whether he is focused on winning a reprieve elsewhere. He also agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Mr Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation.

President Donald Trump with Paul Manafort (far right) and Rick Gates (centre).

For a while it looked like Manafort was going to play the good soldier.

Manafort is now expected to plead guilty to these two charges, as such informations are commonly filed immediately prior to a plea.

"For months, as part of their joint defense agreement, they would have been strategizing together", Schiff noted, adding that Manafort might be able to share information on "what conversations" Trump might have had with Manafort "after the charges were brought against him".

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