Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The astounding development was announced in court in Washington DC on Friday morning, where Manafort confessed to two criminal charges as part of a plea deal. Manafort responded to the charges with
Manafort signed a 17-page plea agreement that said he would assist government prosecutors with “any and all” matters, and brief officials about “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities”. He also agreed to turn over documents and testify in other cases.
Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the US and conspiring to obstruct justice in return for other charges being dropped. Mueller’s team indicated that Manafort would receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Last month Manafort, 69, was convicted of eight counts in a fraud case brought in Virginia by Mueller, the special counsel. A further 10 charges, on which the Virginia jury was deadlocked, will also be dropped as part of the deal.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Kevin Downing, one of Manafort’s attorneys, said:
“Mr Manafort has accepted responsibility and he wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”
Mueller’s team has been investigating whether his connections in the region are linked to Russia’s attack on the 2016 US election. Mueller alleges that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian consultant who worked for Manafort, has ties to Russia’s intelligence services.
On Friday Mueller’s team disclosed new details about Manafort’s work as an unregistered lobbyist in the US for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president deposed in a popular uprising in February 2014.
On August 22, 2018 President Trump had tweeted:
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
On September 12, 2018 Giuliani was interviewed by Politico and said:
“There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man,”
“We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial? They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. The judge should decide this. Not Mueller. I think it’s pretty clear if they were going to get anything from him, they’d have gotten it already.
“What’s the point of further harassing him?”
Giuliani had also said Trump and his attorneys were unconcerned about a potential plea agreement because they were convinced Manafort had nothing damaging to say about the president.
“From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself. There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.”