Manafort averts 2nd trial with plea deal, promises to cooperate with Mueller

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The guilty plea includes an agreement by Paul Manafort to cooperate with investigators, and requires him to tell the Special Counsel everything they want to know about his dealings with the Trump campaign as well as other matters.

After months of refusing to assist Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference and possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Moscow, Manafort finally took a plea deal and agreed to cooperate in return for reduced charges. He's already been convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud crimes in the Virginia trial. Because of the Justice Department's official view that a sitting president can not be prosecuted, Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have chose to fight the investigation as a political battle as well as a legal one.

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.

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty".

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two conspiracy counts, though the crimes he admitted cover the same conduct alleged in an indictment a year ago.

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.

The president agreed to wait at least until the investigation concludes, Giuliani has said.

At the end of the segment, Dershowitz said that a pardon for Manafort is "off the table". Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge his plea agreement is a "cooperation agreement", and the other charges they will drop at sentencing at "or at the agreement of successful cooperation".

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Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday before the hearing that a guilty plea would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

In total, Mueller has indicted or extracted guilty pleas from more than 30 people and three companies. "A pardon may take the case out of the federal criminal arena as it relates to a conviction and punishment, it does not however relieve one of the obligation to be a witness if he were subpoenaed to the grand jury or at trial".

Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Washington on Friday to counts of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice, becoming the most prominent former of Mr Trump's campaign officials to plead guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement on Manafort.

In August, Manafort's attorneys filed a motion requesting the trial be moved from Washington to Roanoke, Virginia.

In the past year, Mueller has secured pleas from a former national security adviser who lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador, a campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside Manafort but ultimately turned on him.

After his arrest in October, he was detained by the court in his Alexandria, Virginia, home for more than eight months. Gates testified against Manafort in the Virginia trial, saying his former boss had directed him to commit the fraud. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial.