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Ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort 'close to plea deal with Mueller'

14 September 2018

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to reaching a plea deal that would avert a trial scheduled to start later this month in Washington, D.C.

Manafort was convicted on 8 of 18 charges in a separate trial in Virginia that ended last month.

Earlier, ABC News, citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of the discussions, said Manafort had tentatively agreed to a plea deal and it was expected to be announced at a court hearing on Friday in Washington.

The trial would be the second for Manafort stemming from Mueller's sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

ABC News reported Wednesday that Manafort was seeking to avoid a deal that would involve him cooperating with government prosecutors in the Russian Federation investigation.

He was previously reported to be resisting Mueller's demands for information relating to Trump in return for a deal.

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Manafort's attorneys had argued that the trial should be moved to Roanoke, Virginia, because the intensity of publicity in Washington made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

If Manafort decides to cooperate with Mueller, it would be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

The former Trump associate faces charges of obstruction of justice, money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent in his second trial in D.C. The charges stem from work he did lobbying for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, which is unrelated to his work on the Trump campaign. In ruling against Manafort's request for a change of venue, Jackson said she could reconsider if they are unable to qualify enough jurors to proceed to jury selection in the case, scheduled to begin September 17.

Prosecutors have approached the second trial much like the first: with a wealth of documentary evidence and a range of witnesses who worked with Manafort.

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

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

Ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort 'close to plea deal with Mueller'