Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will cooperate in special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into ties between the president’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges Friday in Washington, D.C.: one count of conspiracy against the United States involving tax fraud and failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and another count of conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with potential witnesses.
The deal struck Friday is a “cooperation agreement,” special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, according to CNN.
Manafort’s reported guilty plea comes a month after an Eastern Virginia jury found him guilty on eight charges related to tax evasion and bank loan fraud in August.
As part of the agreement announced Friday, prosecutors will toss the 10 leftover charges from the Eastern Virginia trial after the jury there was hung on them. His prison time will be capped at 10 years, and he will be allowed to serve time from the charges in D.C. and the charges in Virginia concurrently.
But that’s conditional on Manafort’s “successful cooperation,” per the deal.
The former Trump campaign chairman is a key link in Mueller’s probe.
Manafort was one of three Trump campaign officials — along with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law Jared Kushner — who met with Russian nationals in June 2016 after they had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And as the chairman of the president’s campaign, he had high-level access to Trump and his closest advisers for a crucial stretch during the spring and summer of 2016.
Manafort’s lawyers and the special counsel announced the plea deal at an 11 a.m. plea agreement hearing Friday.
The White House tried to publicly distance itself from the developments Friday as Trump continues to call the special counsel’s investigation a “rigged witch hunt.”
“This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the charges against Manafort.
Experts have speculated that Trump might pardon Manafort, whom the president has called a “good man” and whom he feels was wrongfully targeted by Mueller’s team in an effort to coerce him into providing incriminating information about the president.
Manafort’s lawyers and Trump’s legal team have not discussed such an arrangement, BuzzFeed News reported.