Paul Manafort pleads guilty after reaching 'cooperation agreement' with special counsel

15 September, 2018, 19:09 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP

They said "The President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth"-taking out the truth part because that is very much the problem".

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will cooperate with the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a dramatic turnaround that deals the USA president a setback.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann walked the court through Manafort's efforts over a decade to influence power brokers in Washington without acknowledging that he was being paid tens of millions of dollars from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, a disclosure required by law. A judge sent him to prison when prosecutors accused him of attempting to tamper with the testimony of two witnesses.

Later in 2016, Manafort oversaw the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for the presidency.

He was also a close business associate of a man who United States intelligence believes has ties to Russian intelligence. Gates has knowledge of Manafort's offshore bank accounts, his work for Ukraine and his relationship with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. "Whether those expectations will be met is the great unknown".

Prosecutors applied "tremendous pressure on him" he claimed, but Manafort "refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a "deal". Trump had saluted that stance, publicly praising him and suggesting Manafort had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

Added Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani: "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign".

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Paul Manafort seated (L) as his lawyer speaks in court. Mueller has collected folders upon folders of information since he began his investigation and spoken with dozens of witnesses.

Even though the Manafort case was tangential to the central thrust of Mr Mueller's inquiry - relating to his work as a lobbyist, and not possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign - this still marks a significant development in the special counsel's investigation.


Given his direct involvement in the Trump campaign, including episodes being scrutinized by Mueller, Manafort could be positioned to provide key insight for investigators working to establish whether the campaign coordinated with Russian Federation. Manafort fessed up to urging his business associates on the Ukraine deal to lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the nature of their work.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018.

Manafort had previously been found guilty of eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges last month in a trial in Virginia.

The only concession the special counsel made was to repackage the charges against Manafort in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from seven counts to two and to ask judges for a shorter sentence. "He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life".

"(Trump), like the rest of us, will have to wait to see how damaging Manafort's cooperation will be", Wright said. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that the crimes he's guilty of have nothing to do with Trump, but according to the indictment, Manafort did crimes throughout the campaign and the year 2017. Giuliani said he spoke to Trump on Friday about Manafort's plea. The president has not said whether he would do so. "In a way, it's another indication there is no evidence of collusion".

After all, while Mueller has played the jail card, Manafort is still likely to be holding the Trump Card - - and no one remains in prison when that card is played.

"This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that". He abandoned his right to appeal his sentences in Washington and Virginia and agreed to forfeit homes in NY, including a condo in Trump Tower.

Friday's move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial. Manafort did not contest the other five counts against him.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort illegally lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government after failing to register as a foreign agent and laundered over $30 million from his business and evaded over $15 million in taxes. To accomplish this goal, he hoped to spread the allegation of anti-Semitism against former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a maneuver that was supposed to bolster the standing in Washington of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort admitted to leading a lobbying campaign for Ukraine for almost a decade and intentionally doing so without registering as a foreign agent.

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