Paul Manafort Reaches Plea Deal With Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

Bill Hennessy Reuters

Paul Manafort agrees to plead guilty to avoid a second trial on corruption charges, following a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

In exchange, Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering.

The charges were filed in a superseding criminal information - a formal criminal charge - which lays out the facts of the offense and is often the precursor to the announcement of a deal.

Manafort already faces as many as 10 years in prison in a bank and tax fraud case after a federal jury in Alexandria, Va., found him guilty in August.

The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

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It is not clear whether any agreement with prosecutors would require him to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

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Trump's former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted financial crimes and is helping federal prosecutors in NY. But Trump's presidential pardon powers only exist at the federal level, and if Manafort were to be convicted in any possible state-level prosecutions, the president couldn't grant a pardon.

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

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

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Manafort is due to reappear in court Friday for pre-trial proceedings stemming from charges of money laundering for Russia-linked politicians.

Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner and the campaign's deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Prosecutors "applied tremendous pressure on him and. he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal, ' " the president tweeted last month.

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