Former Trump manager Manafort to plead guilty in Mueller probe: court documents

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

Bill Hennessy Reuters

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed a plea deal to avoid a second trial, USA media report.

Manafort is expected to appear in court later Friday morning.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon.

Kathleen Manafort, wife of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, arrives prior to a pre-trial hearing for Paul Manafort ahead of his upcoming trial on a range of charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2018.

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.

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Manafort's legal team blamed most of his problems on former business partner Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty this year and testified against Manafort in Virginia. The remaining five charges against Manafort will be dropped.

A second case was opened in Virginia earlier this year on related charges that ended with a jury finding Manafort guilty on eight counts out of an 18-count indictment, facing a maximum of 80 years behind the bars, though under sentencing guidelines the term is likely to be closer to seven years.

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.

According to the court documents cited by United States media, Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Yanukovych was ousted from the country in 2014, and Manafort's consulting work in Ukraine dried up, according to evidence presented by the prosecutors in the Virginia trial.

The developments were first reported by ABC News, which said details of the deal would be announced in court on Friday. 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.

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