Manafort guilty plea, cooperation deal rock Trump White House

Kevin Downing

Former Trump campaign manager Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

President Donald Trump has not directly commented on Paul Manafort's deal on Twitter yet, but his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been tweeting a lot about it this weekend.

Paul Manafort has made a "tentative" plea deal to avoid a second criminal trial, ABC News reported Thursday.

Alan Dershowitz on Sunday flipped the script on Donald Trump, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that news of Paul Manafort's plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller is bad news for the president.

Last month, Manafort was convicted of eight financial crimes during a trial in Virginia, and faces 7-10 years in prison in that case.

On Friday, the special counsel filed a criminal information-a charging document that is filed by prosecutors to indicate the criminal conduct to which the defendant will plead guilty-which details Manafort's numerous connections to foreign governments and the use of foreign bank accounts to funnel millions of dollars into the US without paying taxes. Mueller also obtained guilty pleas from two other people (Alex van der Zwaan and Richard Pinedo) and indicted 26 Russians on charges related to the attack on the 2016 election. But former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had long eluded Mueller's team, with his resistance to a plea deal so intense that some in law enforcement figured he must know he would soon receive a pardon.

Instead, they derived from his work for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow political party between about 2005 and 2014.

A 12-count indictment a year ago described US$75 million (S$101 million) that Manafort's firm received from the work he did in Ukraine over the previous decade, some of it allegedly laundered through offshore accounts to hide it from the United States government.

First of all it seems 'pardon-proof, ' thwarting Trump who kept dangling the reward that if Manafort kept his lips sealed the president would keep him out of prison.

Manafort is a longtime business partner of Roger Stone, who served as an informal adviser to Trump and was briefly involved with the campaign. Still, there were occasional references to Manafort's work on the campaign, including emails showing him lobbying Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner on behalf of a banker who approved $16 million in loans because he wanted a job in the Trump administration. Moscow denies United States intelligence agency allegations that it interfered in the political process.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", she said. "It is totally unrelated".

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Trump and his team are unconcerned about a possible plea deal, Giuliani said, because they're convinced Manafort has no damaging info on the president.

He led the campaign in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.

The disgraced former Trump campaign chair and his attorneys had four hours Thursday in talks with Robert Mueller's special counsel probe prosecutors to try to stop his second trial going ahead.

"The higher you go, the more insulated those people are", said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of NY who successfully prosecuted more than 100 members and associates of the Sicilian mafia.

"I'm intent on making sure that Mueller completes his investigation without political interference", he added.

"It's called 'flipping, ' and it nearly ought to be illegal", he seethed after his go-to fixer Michael Cohen - the man who once boasted he would take a bullet for the celebrity billionaire - flipped earlier this summer. Usually it helps you get a pardon down the road.

I spoke to Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who said we can not be sure of the outlines of the deal they made.

Trump has repeatedly spoken out in Manafort's defence - while also seeking to distance himself from his onetime associate, saying in June that he "came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time".

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal. "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 courageous man!'

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