What does Manafort know?

In plea deal, he agreed to tell all, tes­tify and even work un­der­cover

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation -

WASH­ING­TON — As Trump as­so­ciates folded one by one over the last year un­der the pres­sure of fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors, there was al­ways Paul Manafort.

Un­til sud­denly there wasn’t.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, who for months stood res­o­lute in his in­no­cence and de­ter­mined to fight charge upon charge even as other one-time loy­al­ists caved, reached an ex­tra­or­di­nary plea deal with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s of­fice on Fri­day that re­quires him to as­sist the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and con­verts him into a po­ten­tially vi­tal govern­ment co­op­er­a­tor.

The deal, struck in Wash­ing­ton just days be­fore Manafort was to have faced a sec­ond trial, is tied to Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing work and un­re­lated to the Trump cam­paign.

The ques­tions that re­main are what in­for­ma­tion Manafort, 69, can pro­vide about the pres­i­dent and whether the Trump elec­tion ef­fort co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia.

Manafort’s lead­er­ship of the cam­paign at a time when prose­cu­tors say Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence was work­ing to sway the elec­tion, and his in­volve­ment in episodes un­der scru­tiny, may make him an es­pe­cially in­sight­ful wit­ness.

Manafort was among the par­tic­i­pants in a June 2016 Trump Tower meet­ing in New York with Rus­sians and Trump’s old­est son and sonin-law that was ar­ranged for the cam­paign to re­ceive deroga­tory in­for­ma­tion about Demo­cratic pres­i­dent nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

He was also a close busi­ness as­so­ciate of a man who U.S. in­tel­li­gence be­lieves has ties to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence. While he was work­ing on the cam­paign, emails show, Manafort dis­cussed pro­vid­ing pri­vate brief­ings for a wealthy Rus­sian busi­ness­man close to Vladimir Putin.

“The ex­pec­ta­tions around Manafort’s co­op­er­a­tion are likely at a level be­yond any­one else to date who has agreed to co­op­er­ate,” said Ja­cob Frenkel, a Wash­ing­ton lawyer not in­volved in the case. “Whether those ex­pec­ta­tions will be met is the great un­known.”

In his plea deal, Manafort agreed to pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion asked of him, tes­tify when­ever asked and even work un­der­cover if nec­es­sary. The co­op­er­a­tion en­sures the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will ex­tend far be­yond the Novem­ber elec­tions de­spite en­treaties from the pres­i­dent’s lawyers that Mueller bring it to a close.


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