Ex-Trump aide Manafort close to plea deal with Mueller

REPORT: Manafort Wants

Manafort reaches 'tentative' plea deal with Mueller: report | TheHill

Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort has reached a tentative plea deal with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, ABC News reports.

The network said could be pleading guilty to avoid the stress and expense of a second trial following his conviction in Virginia on tax fraud and money laundering charges.

CNN, however, described the two sides as coming "close" to a deal on Thursday.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said Wednesday that his team wants to introduce evidence showing the rarity of FARA prosecutions and to argue that the prosecution was instigated by the special counsel's office because Manafort led the Trump campaign.

Another reason for Manafort to enter a plea - and the ABC News report reiterated this - is that Manafort would be spared exorbitant legal costs on a second trial that already appears likely to result in a guilty verdict, at least in part.

The tentative deal was first reported on Thursday evening by ABC News.

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"It's close but not there yet", one of the sources said of negotiations in the second case against Manafort arising from Mueller's investigation of USA intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 US election, which Moscow denies.

Four former Trump aides have pleaded guilty to charges related to the special counsel investigation: Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser. The trial is scheduled to get underway in Washington on September 24.

The report of a tentative deal comes days before jury selection is expected to begin for Manafort's trial in D.C., which is set to kick off with opening statements on September 24.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort's Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller's team has linked to Russian intelligence. The jury said they were hung on 10 other charges.

Trump has repeatedly come to Manafort's defense. But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had already signaled that argument was out-of-bounds.

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