Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleads guilty in Mueller probe

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleads guilty in Mueller probe

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has concluded a plea deal that will avert a trial in Washington, D.C., on charges related to his lobbying work in Ukraine and allegations of witness tampering in the case against him.

A court filing Friday shows a plea hearing is set for later in the morning.

As part of the deal, Manafort, 69, could be required to cooperate with Mueller's probe into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russian Federation in the 2016 US presidential election. The charges in Friday's filing were contained in a criminal information, a document that can only be filed with a defendant's consent and typically signals a deal has been reached.

Manafort agreed to plead to conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses.

The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon. 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.

Manafort's conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller's investigation.

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Earlier this year, Manafort derided Gates, his former business partner, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against his former partner.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in late March of 2016, and ascended to chairman before leaving in August as revelations emerged about his previous consulting work in the Ukraine.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon. Even after his indictment last October, though, prosecutors say he continued to commit crimes by tampering with witnesses.

In the trial scheduled in Washington, Manafort faces charges of conspiring against the United States, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist, making false statements and conspiring to obstruct justice by trying to influence witnesses.

He has yet to be sentenced in Virginia, where legal experts say he faces 8 to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines on the eight of 18 counts on which he was convicted.

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