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Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty In Russia Probe

Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty In Russia Probe

The plea was all the more stunning for the fact that Manafort is the fifth Trump aide to plead guilty in connection to the special counsel's probe. He copped to two conspiracy charges, though.

In August, Manafort was found guilty on eight out of 18 counts of financial crimes in his first trial in Virginia.

Trump's former Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on 8 charges of financial fraud, but as he's staring down the barrel of another trial, he's decided to take make a deal with Mueller.

He smiled broadly as he entered the courtroom Friday but gave terse and barely audible answers during questioning from the judge.

Now the special counsel's office can refocus on the central portion of its investigation - whether there was any co-ordination between the Russian government and the Trump team in 2016. "It is totally unrelated".

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely overlap with the conduct alleged in an indictment previous year. He had another trial coming up this month, and this plea deal was his way of avoiding it.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said of the Manafort news on Friday. Jury selection was due to start on Monday.

When Manafort eventually goes for sentencing, the agreement notes that Mueller will let the court know how much Manafort did or did not cooperate. He did not elaborate on the agreement.

Manafort, 69, earned tens of millions of dollars lobbying for foreign governments and spent that money freely, including on a $15,000 ostrich coat, landscaping and real estate.

Given Manafort's close involvement with Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, the news could constitute a major blow to President Trump as he tries to contain the damage from Mueller's probe.

Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, also said earlier this summer there was "no chance" his client would flip and cooperate with prosecutors.

The charges were contained in a criminal information document that can only be filed with a defendant's consent and typically signals a deal has been reached.

Manafort's second trial would have been related to his Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.

But Trump also argued that Manafort would never cut a deal with prosecutors, who he alleged were treating him unfairly.

In December, Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn admitted to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. The only thing the agreement appears to lack is a pledge by Manafort to conduct the members of the prosecution to team to his favorite tailors.

The investigation looked at such interactions "before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications", prosecutors wrote.

The plea avoids a second criminal trial for Manafort, which was set to begin in Washington later this month, related to his lobbying and consulting work on behalf of pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

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