Manafort agrees to co-operate
Washington — u.s. president donald trump’s former campaign chairman paul manafort agreed Friday to cooperate with the special counsel’s russia investigation as he pleaded guilty to federal charges and avoided a second trial that could have exposed him to even greater punishment.
the deal gives special counsel robert mueller a key co-operator who led the trump election effort for a crucial stretch during the 2016 presidential campaign. the result also ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president’s lawyers that mueller bring his probe to a close.
it is unclear what information manafort is prepared to provide to investigators about trump or that could aid mueller’s investigation into russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. but the plea nonetheless makes manafort the latest associate of trump to admit guilt and cooperate with investigators in hopes of leniency.
in the past year, mueller has secured pleas from a former national security adviser who lied to the Fbi about discussing sanctions with a russian ambassador, a campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with russian president Vladimir putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside manafort but ultimately turned on him. the president’s former personal lawyer michael Cohen has separately pleaded guilty in New york.
Friday’s deal, to charges tied to ukrainian political consulting work but unrelated to the campaign, was struck just days before manafort was to have stood trial for a second time.
he was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces seven to 10 years in prison in that case. 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 co-operation.
he smiled broadly as he entered the courtroom Friday but gave terse and barely audible answers during questioning from the judge.
“he wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life. he’s accepted responsibility. this is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that,” said attorney Kevin downing.