Manafort forfeits Trump Tower apartment in plea deal

Arturo Kim
September 15, 2018

The guilty plea today by Paul Manafort is a "big win" for Robert Mueller that should alarm Donald Trump.

Defense attorney Kevin Downing departs following a plea agreement hearing for his client former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort ahead of a trial on a range of charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2018.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann walked the court through Manafort's efforts over a decade to influence power brokers in Washington without acknowledging that he was being paid tens of millions of dollars from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, a disclosure required by law.

The President has been quite publicly supportive of Manafort since criminal charges were first filed against his former campaign chairman.

The scope of the cooperation was not immediately clear.

Manafort oversaw the 2016 Republican National Convention in which the party's platform on Ukraine was altered in a way that made it more in line with Russian interests.

According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign".

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump.

It is impossible to know exactly what information Paul Manafort has to share with Mueller after agreeing to cooperate with his investigation in a plea deal.

"I do", he said repeatedly, waiving each right. In DC, his seven criminal counts are rewritten as two. The two conspiracy counts he pleaded guilty to on Friday carry up to five years in prison, though Manafort's sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation. But the court filing says Manafort admits to the actions.

A plea deal was light at the end of the tunnel for Manafort - and on Friday that was the direction he chose to travel.

With legions of Ivy League-educated prosecutors, the investigative resources of the FBI, the Treasury Department and virtually the entire federal bureaucracy at the disposal of prosecutors, an ordinary citizen has little chance of winning a court victory.

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He was found guilty last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia. Trump had signaled a willingness to consider clemency for Manafort through his spokesman Rudy Giuliani. They said "The President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth"-taking out the truth part because that is very much the problem". The initial version, which was quickly revised, included "Paul Manafort will tell the truth" as part of the quote.

"(Trump), like the rest of us, will have to wait to see how damaging Manafort's cooperation will be", Wright said. His conviction last month in Virginia guaranteed that. He concealed the income through a network of foreign banks and shell companies.

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

The move allows Manafort to avoid a second criminal trial and ends his more than year-long fight against investigators in the Russian Federation probe.

Manafort, Trump's top political operative from May to August 2016, has always been considered one of the bigger fish for Muller's office.

Even though the Manafort case was tangential to the central thrust of Mr Mueller's inquiry - relating to his work as a lobbyist, and not possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign - this still marks a significant development in the special counsel's investigation.

Prosecutors applied "tremendous pressure on him" he claimed, but Manafort "refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a "deal". The allegations revealed last October reiterated a year of news reports that Manafort had secretly funneled income from Ukrainian lobbying contacts for years.

Trump has the power to issue a presidential pardon for Manafort on federal charges.

Prosecutors also gained the cooperation of his longtime associate Rick Gates, who had been indicted alongside him.

Even though Manafort and the Trump legal team were operating under a joint defence agreement, in which they would share relevant information, it appears the details of the deal caught Mr Trump's side flat-footed.

He had steadfastly refused to cooperate with Mueller even as the Virginia jury convicted him for hiding from USA tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans.

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