- Paul Manafort has reached a tentative plea deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, according to reports from ABC and Fox News.
- It’s unclear whether the deal, which is likely to be announced Friday morning, involves a cooperation agreement.
- Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal defence attorney, said Thursday that he was not worried about Manafort cutting a plea deal because Trump’s team was convinced he wouldn’t say anything damaging about the president.
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Paul Manafort is expected to plead guilty as part of a deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, Fox News reported on Friday morning following a Thursday ABC News report claiming Manafort had reached a “tentative” plea deal.
Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, was convicted on eight of 18 counts related to tax and bank fraud last month, and he was set to face a second trial in Washington, DC, beginning next week.
The second indictment charged him with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and failure to register as a foreign agent.
ABC News reported that the plea deal was expected to be announced in court Friday and that it was unclear whether it involved a cooperation agreement.
Manafort’s lawyers have been in talks with Mueller’s team about a plea deal for at least the past few weeks. Jury selection for his second trial is set to begin Monday, and opening arguments are scheduled for September 24.
Legal experts say that given the timeline of the trial, it’s unlikely prosecutors would agree to a plea deal that doesn’t involve an agreement to cooperate with the government.
“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.
“The only way they’d agree to a deal that involves dismissing some charges and asking for a lesser sentence is if it involves a cooperation agreement,” he said.
That said, it’s not inconceivable for the special counsel to agree to a plea deal without a cooperation agreement, and that scenario presents multiple upsides for the former Trump campaign chairman.
Perhaps most significant, a guilty plea without cooperation leaves the door wide open for Manafort to receive a presidential pardon or commutation in the future.
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lead defence attorney,told Politico on Thursday that the president’s legal team was not concerned about the possibility of a plea deal in Manafort’s case because they were convinced he wouldn’t say anything damaging about Trump.
Giuliani added that Manafort’s striking a plea deal would not shut the door to his getting a presidential pardon, and he said Manafort’s team had been in regular contact with Trump’s as part of a joint defence agreement, which allows the two sides to share evidence and other information. Because of their agreement, it’s likely that Manafort’s lawyers would have spoken with Trump’s lawyers before reportedly agreeing to any deal with Mueller.
One potential downside for the president is that if Manafort pleads guilty, Mueller can subpoena him to testify before a grand jury after he is sentenced. At that point, Manafort would not be able to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as it relates to the two cases against him.
Manafort is a significant figure in several threads of the Russia investigation. He led the Trump campaign from March to August of 2016, during one of the most pivotal periods in the election season.
During that time he exchanged emails with a former Russian intelligence operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, offering the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska “private briefings” about the campaign in what might have been an attempt to resolve a long-standing financial dispute with Deripaska.
He spearheaded the campaign when WikiLeaks published thousands of emails that Russia had stolen from the Democratic National Committee. He was also one of three top campaign officials who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s support for Trump’s candidacy.
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