White House says Manafort plea is 'totally unrelated' to Trump's 'victorious' campaign

Paul Manafort looks on as Donald Trump appears at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. A superseding crim

Paul Manafort looks on as Donald Trump appears at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. A superseding crim

What is unclear is whether he will cooperate with prosecutors as they investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, and potential collusion by members of Trump's campaign.

Manafort is due in federal court for what the Justice Department called "an arraignment and plea agreement hearing" on Friday morning, following the release of new charging documents against him. The two conspiracy counts he admitted to on Friday each carry up to five years, though Manafort's sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation.

As recently as last month, Trump praised his former campaign manager, who he said said was a "brave man" who "refused to break".

The long-time Washington power player's fight against the special counsel investigation is over not with a bang, but with a plea deal.

According to that report, Trump had initially picked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as his running mate, but Manafort "had another idea in mind".

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal".

According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the United States includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

The deal requires him to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

Any light Manafort could shed on that meeting and other episodes could deepen the Mueller probe, legal experts said, increasing the pressure on Trump.

The investigation has exposed the inner workings of the Russian influence campaign against American elections, a detailed and elaborate scheme by Manafort and Gates to hide money made through foreign lobbying work from the USA government and multiple instances of people later lying to investigators about their behavior.

The plea deal came ahead of Manafort's second trail related to his political consulting work in Ukraine, including failing to register as a foreign agent. The president's former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in NY. "Mueller would not have given him a deal unless Manafort was able to help Mueller make a case against someone else or significantly strengthen an existing case". He was found guilty last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia.

Mueller's team could also pull out of the agreement at any time if they feel Manafort is not fully cooperating.

Manafort entered his guilty plea to two felony counts during an hour-long hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C. The plea took place three days before he was to face trial on charges related to his lobbying work for Ukraine and alleged witness tampering.

Senator Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said any attempt by Trump to pardon Manafort "would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress".

The second count explains how, between February and April of this year, Manafort conspired to obstruct justice through witness tampering.

"And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities".

Cornell University professor of law Jens David Ohlin said it was hard to predict what information a cooperation agreement will yield but that Manafort's plea deal could be a serious problem for Trump. Mueller has collected folders upon folders of information since he began his investigation and spoken with dozens of witnesses.

The White House says former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller is "totally unrelated" to the president.

Moscow rejects the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that it interfered in the American democratic process and Trump denies campaign collusion.

Earlier this year, Rick Gates, who served as deputy chairman for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to charges of plotting.

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