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Manafort makes deal with Mueller to avoid another trial

14 September 2018

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty in federal court and forfeit many of his assets, according to a court filing Friday morning, signed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In addition to the witness tampering counts, Manafort had been formally charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, conspiring to launder money and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department about the nature of his work.

Manafort, in a trial set to begin September 24 in federal court in Washington, is facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon.

As a potential witness to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation during the 2016 campaign, Manafort became an early and sustained focus of the Mueller probe.

The planned plea, if accepted by a judge, would short-circuit his second trial scheduled to begin later this month in the District of Columbia on charges of money laundering and lobbying violations.

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Manafort has aggressively fought the charges against him and taken shots at his co-defendant, Rick Gates, who cut a deal with prosecutors earlier this year that did include an agreement to cooperate with the special counsel.

This, in turn, may endear him to President Trump, who has already called Manafort a "good man" who has been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort's cooperation with Mueller's probe, dealing a blow to Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6.

Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump's presidency. Either he has offered some form of cooperation, one source familiar with the case explained, or the government has concluded that it has hit him with a sufficient number of charges and following through with a second trial is not worth the time and expense. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well.

The developments were first reported by ABC News, which said details of the deal would be announced in court on Friday. The discovery of his witness contacts led to a superseding indictment in June and Manafort's jailing ahead of his trial.

Manafort makes deal with Mueller to avoid another trial