This surely spells more bad news for tRump. If anyone knows whether any Americans colluded with Russians to meddle in our elections, it is Manafort. He may also know about financial crimes by tRump.
Excerpts from the Article:
President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges under terms of a plea deal that includes his cooperation as a potential witness for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The decision by Manafort to provide evidence in hopes of leniency on sentencing is a stunning development in the long-running probe into whether any Trump associates may have conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“I plead guilty,” Manafort told U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson, who accepted his plea.
Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, gave a brief statement outside the courthouse after the hearing. “He wanted to make sure his family remained safe and live a good life,” Downing said of Manafort. “He has accepted responsibility.”
When asked if the deal with Mueller’s team is a full cooperation agreement, Downing replied, “It is.” He did not respond to questions about whether Manafort has been interviewed by Mueller’s team or if Manafort’s defense team remains in a joint defense agreement with Trump’s attorneys.
Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said at the beginning of Friday’s plea hearing that Manafort has agreed to cooperate with investigators, saying the 17-page plea document included the terms of Manafort’s expected cooperation.
Jackson noted Manafort has agreed to cooperate “fully and truthfully” with the investigation conducted by the Office of Special Counsel, including participating in interviews and debriefings, producing any documents in his control, testifying and agreeing to delay sentencing until a time set by government. Manafort also waived his right to have counsel present for every debriefing or interview.
Under the terms of the deal, Manafort faces a possible maximum prison sentence of about 10 years, though that doesn’t include any likely sentence for his conviction last month in Virginia. His attorneys may seek a lower sentence, and prosecutors did not agree to recommend any sentence. The judge made no mention of any offer by prosecutors for a letter recommending leniency in case of substantial cooperation.
Before Manafort pleaded guilty, Weissmann gave a 40-minute description of the criminal conduct in the case.
“I believe it’s fair to say that’s probably the longest and most detailed summary that ever preceded this question, but is what the prosecutor said a true and accurate description of what you did in this case?” Jackson asked Manafort. “I did. It is,” Manafort, said, resting both hands on the lectern before him and flanked by his attorney, Richard Westling.
The deal will short-circuit Manafort’s trial scheduled for later this month. Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges — conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to obstruct justice.
The document is a laundry list of Manafort’s admitted criminal conduct, including funneling millions of dollars in payments into offshore accounts to conceal his income from the Internal Revenue Service. “Manafort cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes,” the document states.
The filing also offers new details about the various ways in which Manafort sought to surreptitiously lobby the U.S. government and influence American public opinion toward Ukraine. In 2012, Manafort set out to help his client, then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, by tarnishing the reputation of Yanukovych’s political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, according to the document. “Manafort stated that ‘[m]y goal is to plant some stink on Tymo’,” according to the document. At the time he made that statement, he was trying to get U.S. news outlets to print stories that Tymoshenko had paid for the murder of a Ukrainian official, according to the criminal information. The document also says Manafort “orchestrated a scheme to have, as he wrote in a contemporaneous communication, ‘[O]bama jews’ put pressure on the administration to disavow Tymoshenko and support Yanukovych,” the document said.
As part of his deal, the government plans to seize four properties, including a house worth nearly $2 million in Arlington, Va., that’s owned by one of Manafort’s daughters. The deal also calls for forfeiture of four financial accounts and a life insurance policy.
The guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously — but unsuccessfully — against Mueller’s probe. The 69-year-old political consultant was convicted last month in Alexandria federal court on charges of bank and tax fraud.
Manafort’s cooperation with Mueller could provide investigators new evidence or leads to chase; the guilty plea, however, will prevent weeks’ worth of headlines about the trial in the month before congressional elections.
The longtime lobbyist resigned from his position as campaign chairman in August 2016 amid increasing scrutiny of his work in Ukraine.
He has yet to be sentenced in Virginia, where legal experts say he faces eight to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines on the eight of 18 counts on which he was convicted. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.
It is unclear how the guilty plea might alter his ultimate sentence, and some lawyers have questioned whether he is focused on winning a reprieve elsewhere. Law enforcement officials have come to suspect that Manafort hoped to be pardoned by the president, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Trump has sought advice from his attorneys on the possibility of pardoning Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, Giuliani previously told The Washington Post, and was counseled against pardoning anyone involved in the ongoing Mueller probe. The president agreed to wait at least until the investigation concludes, Giuliani has said.
Several defendants have cooperated or pleaded guilty in connection with the special counsel probe, including Manafort’s former right-hand man Rick Gates; former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort; W. Samuel Patten, who admitted arranging for a Ukrainian businessman to illegally donate to Trump’s inauguration; and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail last week after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.