Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP
Lisa Bryan | 15 September, 2018, 12:15

Jurors in Virginia last month found Manafort guilty, in a separate case, on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, giving special counsel Robert Mueller a victory in the first trial arising from his investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 US election.

Paul Manafort's plea agreement is a monstrously one-sided deal in favor of the government.

It's unclear whether Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing probe into Russian meddling under terms of the plea agreement, Fox News reported.

Manafort refused for months to assist Mueller's inquiry before admitting guilt to criminal charges that he concealed money from tax authorities.

"Manafort essentially took over the campaign as of mid-April 2016 and was Trump's go-to man during a critical period of the campaign", De la Vega told the Guardian. "It is totally unrelated". "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence", Manafort said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.

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. The President has been quite publicly supportive of Manafort since criminal charges were first filed against his former campaign chairman.

In the courtroom, Manafort stared straight ahead, while Weissman read a condensed version of the litany of illegal acts to which Manafort is pleading guilty.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement on Manafort. The response from Trump and the White House has been (and continues to be) that none of these charges show any sort of collusion between Trump and Russian Federation, and that's absolutely true.


The probe has cast a shadow over the Republican's presidency and Manafort's decision to cooperate deals a setback to Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6. The expected guilty plea comes after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Manafort's second trial would remain in the District of Columbia.

Donald Trump Jr, who organised the meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others, initially said it was mainly to discuss a programme on adoptions of Russian children.

A juror in the Virginia case said she discounted testimony from Gates but found the documents that prosecutors introduced to be "overwhelming" in favor of conviction.

Back in August, after Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump praised Manafort for refusing to "break", suggesting that Manafort holding strong was very much in his interest.

Manafort admitted to hiring several companies to conduct the influence campaign, paying the firms over $11 million for the Ukraine work. In exchange, Manafort was assured that he will spend no more than a decade in prison for the two charges, so long as he fully coƶperates with Mueller.

The deal allows Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington. "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". With Flynn likely still cooperating, Manafort freshly flipped, Roger Stone in Mueller's sights, and Mueller's reports on conspiracy and potential obstruction of justice incoming, things will only get more interesting from here.

They were charged in connection with their work for Ukrainian political parties and pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych.

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