Manafort sig­nals he in­tends to plead guilty be­fore new trial

Journal Pioneer - - FRONT PAGE - WASH­ING­TON

Paul Manafort sig­nalled Fri­day that he in­tends to plead guilty ahead of a sec­ond trial as pros­e­cu­tors filed new charg­ing doc­u­ments against the former Trump cam­paign chair­man. The charges in Fri­day’s fil­ing were con­tained a crim­i­nal in­for­ma­tion, a doc­u­ment that can only be filed with a de­fen­dant’s con­sent and typ­i­cally sig­nals a deal has been reached. The charges in­clude con­spir­acy against the United States and con­spir­acy to ob­struct jus­tice. Manafort is ex­pected to ap­pear in court later Fri­day morn­ing. The al­le­ga­tions do not in­volve his work with the Trump cam­paign. It is not clear whether any agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors would re­quire him to co-op­er­ate with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia. Manafort was fac­ing a sec­ond trial set to be­gin on Mon­day on charges re­lated to Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing work, in­clud­ing fail­ing to reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent. It’s un­clear how the pos­si­ble deal might af­fect Manafort’s pur­suit of a par­don from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. The pres­i­dent has sig­nalled that he’s sym­pa­thetic to Manafort’s cause, and in com­ments to Politico, his at­tor­ney spokesman Rudy Gi­u­lia ni said a plea with­out a co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment wouldn’t fore­close the pos­si­bil­ity of a par­don. Manafort has ag­gres­sively fought the charges against him and taken shots at his co-de­fen­dant, Rick Gates, who cut a deal with pros­e­cu­tors ear­lier this year that in­cluded a co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment. At the time of Gates’ plea, Manafort is­sued a state­ment say­ing he “had hoped and ex­pected my business col­league would have had the strength to con­tinue the battle to prove our in­no­cence.” And dur­ing his Vir­ginia trial in Au­gust, Manafort’s lawyers spent con­sid­er­able time paint­ing Gates as a liar, em­bez­zler, phi­lan­derer and turn­coat who would say any­thing to get a lighter prison sen­tence. If he pleads guilty, Manafort would avoid a trial that was ex­pected to last at least three weeks and posed the po­ten­tial of adding years onto the seven to 10 years he is al­ready fac­ing un­der fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines from his con­vic­tion in Vir­ginia. A jury found Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax eva­sion, fail­ing to re­port for­eign bank ac­counts and bank fraud. Ju­rors dead­locked on 10 other counts. In the Wash­ing­ton case, pros­e­cu­tors were set to lay out in great de­tail Manafort’s po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing and lob­by­ing work on be­half of former Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych and the pro-Rus­sian Party of Re­gions. Pros­e­cu­tors say that Manafort di­rected a large scale lob­by­ing op­er­a­tion in the U.S. for Ukrainian in­ter­ests with­out reg­is­ter­ing with the Jus­tice Depart­ment as re­quired by the fed­eral For­eign Agents Regis­tra­tion Act, or FARA. Manafort was ac­cused of con­ceal­ing from the IRS tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in pro­ceeds from his Ukrainian pa­trons and con­spir­ing to laun­der that money through off­shore ac­counts in Cyprus and else­where. Manafort had de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and pleaded not guilty. Even af­ter his in­dict­ment last Oc­to­ber, though, pros­e­cu­tors say he con­tin­ued to com­mit crimes by tam­per­ing with wit­nesses.

AP PHOTO

Paul Manafort, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s former cam­paign chair­man, leaves the fed­eral court­house iear­lier this year n Wash­ing­ton.

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