Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman in the 2016 presidential race, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors that includes an agreement to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.
Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts on Friday: conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Paul Manafort is now telling Judge Amy Berman Jackson "I did" commit the financial, foreign lobbying and obstruction crimes
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) September 14, 2018
Manafort was originally set to appear in a “pre-trial hearing” but that was changed to a “arraignment and plea agreement hearing.”
According to the cooperation agreement, the remaining charges Manafort faces will reportedly be dropped at the end of his sentencing, or at the end of his cooperation, whichever is later. The jury in Manafort’s last trial deadlocked on some of the charges and he had been facing the prospect of a retrial.
The judge said that Manafort’s agreement dictates he will “cooperate fully and truthfully” with the special counsel’s investigation, and the plea deal comes into effect only upon “successful cooperation” with investigators.
There will be a ten-year cap on his prison time, should the plea deal be honored. He will also surrender money in bank accounts and real estate, including his Trump Tower apartment, as part of the deal.
Manafort recently fought charges of fraud and money laundering in a trial last month in which he was found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, likely facing years in prison. He was expected to fight this second trial on conspiracy charges, but earlier Friday news broke that he had entered a guilty plea deal with prosecutors before he appeared in court.
A couple hours later, prosecutor Andrew Weissman revealed that Manafort would be cooperating with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and its relationship with the Trump campaign. Mueller is also looking into whether Trump as president obstructed justice by interfering with the FBI’s investigation.
Earlier this year, Trump at first distanced himself from Manafort as his trial approached, and minimized his relationship with him, stating he wouldn’t have hired Manafort had he known of any investigation.
As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of “Justice” have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018
….Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018
Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders. He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
Then, after Manafort initially “refused to break” during the first trial, Trump criticized his own Justice Department for prosecuting him for tax fraud and compared him favorably to Michael Cohen because he did not cooperate with prosecutors.
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
“Such respect for a brave man!” Trump concluded, never ruling out the chance of a pardon.
As this is published, Trump has yet to comment on Manafort’s deal, but the White House released a statement to reporters denying the charges had anything to do with the Trump campaign.
“This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement. “It is totally unrelated.”
Trump’s main lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also brushed off the news:
NEW – statement from Giuliani on Manafort plea – says investigation “nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign” and says “Manafort will tell the truth.” pic.twitter.com/IOFVxui0PD
— John Santucci (@Santucci) September 14, 2018
Giuliani’s statement ignores the fact that Trump put someone in charge of his presidential campaign who was acting as a foreign agent for years.
Soon after releasing this statement, Giuliani’s team reportedly sent out an updated statement omitting “and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”
According to the plea document, Manafort’s decision to act as an agent of the government of Ukraine in the years before deposed president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia led to $60 million in profits.