Ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort to cooperate in Russian Federation probe

Weissman referred to Manafort's plea deal as a cooperation agreement in court Friday, which could jeopardize his chances of a presidential pardon.

It's true that nothing public in Mueller's investigation so far has touched Trump on the central questions of collusion with Russian Federation or obstruction of justice. Trump's inner circle has been under increasing pressure from the investigation, but can it hold? Today it comes courtesy of President Trump's former campaign manager.

It's unclear how the possible deal might affect Manafort's pursuit of a pardon from President Donald Trump. Trump's former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted financial crimes and is helping federal prosecutors in NY.

Prosecutor Andrew Weismann told the court that the deal includes a "cooperation agreement", which could pose yet another major legal headache to Trump.

Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice brought by Mr Mueller's team.

Many have long speculated that the special counsel's main aim in charging Manafort with financial and lobbying crimes was to pressure him to "flip" - so he'd agree to provide information related to their true concern of whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian Federation to interfere with the election.

It's enormously important news for the Russian Federation investigation.

Before the 2016 election, US spies overheard Russian officials discussing how they could use Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn to exert influence over Donald Trump. That includes testifying fully and completely before a grand jury in Washington D.C., or elsewhere.

He was also a close business associate of a man who USA intelligence believes has ties to Russian intelligence. Patten worked with Manafort's Russian associate Kilimnik through 2017 and admitted in court to illegally using a straw purchaser to buy Trump inaugural tickets for an oligarch.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement on Manafort.

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

He had pleaded guilty in October to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about the timing and significance of his contacts, including a professor who told him the Russians had "dirt" on Trump's Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. And during his Virginia trial in August, Manafort's lawyers spent considerable time painting Gates as a liar, embezzler, philanderer and turncoat who would say anything to get a lighter prison sentence. "What they are looking for is self-corroborating information that can be used against Trump... if they can make him sing and then there's the possibility of him composing, elaborating on the story". And Manafort could conceivably fill Mueller in on that, if it happened.

The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 counts, which were dismissed as part of Manafort's plea deal on September 14 in a second case against him in Washington.

"The big question is what information does he have that the special counsel is interested in", said Sandick.

Manafort is said to have struck a deal after being spooked about the prospect of being convicted of eight further offenses at his upcoming trial and spending the rest of his life in jail.

Manafort was convicted last month in the Virginia case of bank fraud and tax crimes, which also was connected to his work in Ukraine.

He had other charges dropped but could still face 10 years in prison on the two charges in Washington.

The charges against Manafort are related to his Ukrainian consulting work - not Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the central issue in the special counsel's investigation.

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. But Manafort's guilty plea - and, one could argue, other developments like it - "underscores the seriousness of this investigation", said Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.

Vanessa Coleman

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