Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to 'plead guilty'

Paul Manafort

According to NPR, Manafort has chose to plead guilty on Friday, Sept. 14, to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering.

Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the bulk of the charges against Manafort, filing new paperwork that includes just two counts that resemble in many ways the original allegations made in an indictment past year.

Manafort and his former deputy Rick Gates were the first people charged in the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

He led the campaign in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president did nothing wrong.

The trial included testimony for the prosecution from Manafort's longtime aide, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal authorities and agreed to co-operate with the special counsel probe. Separately, Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, implicated him in a criminal campaign finance violation during his own plea hearing in federal court last month.

It was not immediately clear what information Manafort might provide prosecutors.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (r) claimed that Paul Manafort's cooperation with the Mueller probe is "totally unrelated" to Donald Trump.

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Gates pleaded guilty in February to helping Manafort use bank accounts in Cyprus and Grenadines to hide millions they had made while lobbying for Ukrainian politicians. He called Manafort a "good man" and said he had been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department-sparking questions of whether Trump might pardon him. Manafort's decision could be mixed news for Trump, who tapped the consultant to serve as his campaign chairman in June 2016 as he was securing the GOP presidential nomination. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice against the United States and for money laundering, tax fraud, bank reporting and FARA foreign agent disclosure.

The plea deal would allow Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington.

"He's accepted responsibility", Manafort's lawyer Kevin Downing, said.

Manafort's cooperation came just ahead of a Washington, DC trial in which he faced charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice, and tax fraud, among other charges. In addition to failing to register as a foreign agent himself, Manafort admitted to taking steps to prevent the firms and lobbyists he hired from registering as foreign agents.

There was no sentencing Friday, and Manafort is still detained in prison in Alexandria.

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal".

A plea deal was light at the end of the tunnel for Manafort - and on Friday that was the direction he chose to travel. But the plea nonetheless makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and cooperate with investigators in hopes of leniency. Manafort faces up to a decade in federal prison for the two conspiracy charges. The investigation has exposed the inner workings of the Russian influence campaign against American elections, a detailed and elaborate scheme by Manafort and Gates to hide money made through foreign lobbying work from the USA government and multiple instances of people later lying to investigators about their behavior.

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