Trump's former campaign chairman close to deal for guilty plea

Shawn Thew  EPA  REX via Shutterstock

Shawn Thew EPA REX via Shutterstock

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

ABC News reported Thursday that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, has made a tentative plea deal with prosecutors over charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The prosecutions of Manafort arose from Mueller's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 USA election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to help him win.

Prosecutors have approached the second trial much like the first: with a wealth of documentary evidence and a range of witnesses who worked with Manafort.

Both declined to comment for the ABC report.

Manafort's lawyers have been in talks with Mueller's team about a plea deal for at least the last few weeks.

The second trial, if eventually held, would come about a month after a jury in Virginia convicted Manafort on eight felony counts of filing false tax returns, failing to report offshore bank accounts, and bank fraud.

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Jackson's ruling clears the way for Manafort to be tried later this month on several felony charges related to his lobbying and political consulting work on behalf of Ukrainian political interests.

Manafort, who has repeatedly insisted that he would not cooperate with the special counsel, has been reassessing his legal risks after last month's trial.

The President had joint defense agreements in place with former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and with his fixer Michael Cohen, before those agreements were ended when those Trump allies chose to plead guilty.

These charges largely stem from Manafort's time working for a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine before the 2016 USA elections. The Post story also didn't have any inside information on the key question: Will Manafort agree to some sort of guilty plea simply to avoid rolling the dice at trial or does this deal involve cooperating with Mueller against Trump.

Trump discussed with his lawyers earlier this summer a possible pardon for Manafort, Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has told NPR. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

It was unclear whether that possibility has figured in Mr. Manafort's thinking.

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