Despite guilty plea, Paul Manafort still holds the Trump card

15 September, 2018, 12:18 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • Despite guilty plea, Paul Manafort still holds the Trump card

President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has copped a plea deal with federal prosecutors, nixing his trial later this month, according to a report Friday.

Manafort and his former deputy Rick Gates were the first people charged in the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 us presidential election. Manafort was found guilty by a Virginia jury last month of multiple financial crimes.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Mr Trump in the Russian Federation probe, said on Friday before the hearing that a guilty plea would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

Rumors first began earlier this week, when The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, Sept. 11, that sources close to the matter said Manafort was in talks about a possible plea deal.

Manafort is expected to appear in court later Friday morning.

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In a statement to CNN after the news of Manafort's cooperation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign".

Manafort, however, continues to hold a literal "Trump card", which he may elect to play only at the conclusion of court proceedings in his case.

He was among the participants, for instance, in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and Trump's oldest son and son-in-law that was arranged for the campaign to receive derogatory information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Manafort told the judge he wants to plead guilty. The prosecutors recommended a sentence of 17 to 21 years as part of the plea agreement (pdf).

Still, Friday's move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial.

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As part of the deal, Manafort has agreed to forfeit four properties in NY and Virginia, as well as funds held in several bank and investment accounts and an insurance policy.

That was a reference to his former fixer Cohen, who struck a plea deal that saw him admit an illegal pay-off to porn star Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford.

Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Washington on Friday to counts of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice, becoming the most prominent former of Mr Trump's campaign officials to plead guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation. He will also forfeit assets. But, in the end, the Mueller investigation will likely come down to one central question: Did senior members of the Trump campaign, with the explicit knowledge of Trump himself, actively work with Russian government actors to help sway the election so that Trump would win?

In pleading guilty, Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, would admit he broke the law - a concession he refused to make throughout his Alexandria trial and since he was charged almost a year ago in Washington.

The charges replace a raft of separate accusations that Manafort had failed to register as a foreign agent, lied to the government, laundered money and committed fraud.

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Manafort's decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had. In an April court filing, Mueller's prosecutors defended their pursuit of Manafort, even though he wasn't charged with crimes related to Russian election interference. "And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities". The reason: "the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth".

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