Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Lawyer says Manafort cut deal to protect family

Lawyer says Manafort cut deal to protect family

Hey guys, the president's former campaign chairman just plead guilty to crimes including Conspiracy Against The United States, and it sounds like a pretty big deal.

Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty in a Washington DC, courthouse on Friday to conspiring to defraud the USA and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Andrew Weissmann, a federal prosecutor on Mueller's team, said that other charges may be dropped at sentencing or "or at the agreement of successful cooperation".

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in a jail booking photo taken in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 12, 2018.

The scope of the cooperation was not immediately clear. "This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement.

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Paul Manafort seated (L) as his lawyer speaks in court. Even after his subsequent superseding indictment, a Manafort plea deal remained elusive.

"I do", he said repeatedly, waiving each right.

"The expectations around Manafort's cooperation are likely at a level beyond anyone else to date who has agreed to cooperate", said Jacob Frenkel, a Washington lawyer not involved in the case. In DC, his seven criminal counts are rewritten as two. Manafort faces up to a decade in federal prison for the two conspiracy charges.

Mr Mueller's office is notoriously tight lipped, speaking only through its court actions - but those actions have said plenty recently.

A plea deal was light at the end of the tunnel for Manafort - and on Friday that was the direction he chose to travel.

The revelations come three weeks after Manafort was convicted in a separate trial on eight counts related to financial fraud as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into election interference. Trump had signaled a willingness to consider clemency for Manafort through his spokesman Rudy Giuliani. Instead, the new one declared, "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth". The initial version, which was quickly revised, included "Paul Manafort will tell the truth" as part of the quote. Trump has also favorably compared Manafort to Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer. Trump has said previously that he doesn't like flippers, but Manafort has clearly flipped. His conviction last month in Virginia guaranteed that. "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 fearless man!" Manafort was accused of concealing from the IRS tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from his Ukrainian patrons and conspiring to launder that money through offshore accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere.

Had he made a decision to cooperate with prosecutors well before that trial began - he had months to do so - the plea agreement would probably have looked a lot different, and more balanced, than the one filed in court Friday in D.C.

Even Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been one of Trump's most staunch defenders in the Russian Federation probe in numerous media appearances, conceded on Friday that Mueller's deal securing Manafort's cooperation was "a big win" and "big get" for the investigation into Trump's ties to Russian Federation, adding, "Potentially it opens up lots of doors that probably haven't been open before", according to an NBC News report.

Earlier this year, Rick Gates, who served as deputy chairman for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to charges of plotting.

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

Manafort must also cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly" with the Justice Department in any and all matters that the government finds his cooperation to be relevant. The allegations revealed last October reiterated a year of news reports that Manafort had secretly funneled income from Ukrainian lobbying contacts for years.

He had steadfastly refused to cooperate with Mueller even as the Virginia jury convicted him for hiding from US tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans.

Like this: