Friday, 16 November, 2018

Paul Manafort close to plea deal to avoid second federal trial

Paul Manafort makes a call while touring the floor of the Republican National Convention REPORT: Manafort Wants "No Cooperation" Plea Deal
Kenny Thornton | 15 September, 2018, 09:39

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller that would avoid his going on trial next week, ABC News reported on Thursday.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months. Members of Manafort's legal team were spotted spending several hours at the special counsel office's Thursday. If Manafort is getting a deal, that means Mueller is getting something in return.

He already faced a possible sentence of life behind bars before the second trial began in Washington, D.C.

Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud in federal court in Virginia in August, a development that was widely viewed as a victory for Mueller's team in his first court test of the Russian Federation probe. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians. The jury there was deadlocked on 10 others.

Paul Manafort expected to plead guilty, avoid second trial
To that end, his plea deal with Manafort could potentially lead to valuable insight into the inner workings of the Trump campaign. Gates testified against Manafort in the Virginia trial, saying his former boss had directed him to commit the fraud.

Jackson said she would allow Downing to file additional information about his argument before issuing a ruling, but was inclined to bar such references because they weren't relevant to the charges against Manafort.

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.

Since Manafort's guilty verdict in August, speculation has mounted that Trump could pardon him.

"If the government agrees to a plea deal without cooperation now, they save nothing in terms of time, money, or resources", said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti. In the filing on Friday, Mueller's office said Manafort laundered more than $30 million from his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, then "used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States". Desperate for cash, prosecutors said he lied to banks in order to secure $20 million in loans.

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