Manafort to cooperate with Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election meddling

Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel

According to the presiding judge, such co-operation includes sitting for interviews and briefings with Robert Mueller's team, handing over any relevant documents, and testifying before any future grand juries or, if necessary, criminal trials.

The deal requires him to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

The charges do not relate to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort's conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller's investigation.

Mueller's team told the court that Manafort had previewed what information he could offer, leading to the deal. At the moment, there's no indication of what information Manafort might share with the special counsel's office.

Alex Van der Zwaan, a lawyer who once worked closely with Manafort and Gates, pleaded guilty in February to lying to Mueller's investigators about contacts with an official in the Trump election campaign.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "It is totally unrelated".

According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the United States includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

His DC trial was set to begin September 24. The president has signaled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

In August, Manafort's attorneys filed a motion requesting the trial be moved from Washington to Roanoke, Virginia.

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Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann walked the court through Manafort's efforts over a decade to influence power brokers in Washington without acknowledging that he was being paid tens of millions of dollars from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, a disclosure required by law. He did not elaborate on the agreement.

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty. In return, Manafort will not face a second trial in which he could receive more severe punishment.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos exits U.S. District Court after his sentencing hearing, in Washington, U.S., September 7, 2018.

A plea deal was light at the end of the tunnel for Manafort - and on Friday that was the direction he chose to travel.

Manafort, also pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of conspiracy.

"Manafort cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes", the filing states, adding that in order to commit the crimes, he relied on help from both his longtime deputy Rick Gates and the Russian Konstantin Kilimnik. Even after his indictment last October, though, prosecutors say he continued to commit crimes by tampering with witnesses.

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.

If so, it will not be forgotten by the White House that Manafort fought a long and determined war with federal prosecutors at great personal cost while remaining loyal to the President.

If true, that would be quite a development because as Politico reported, "Many Trump aides and advisers have said they believe the president is likely to grant Manafort a pardon on all the charges, which Trump has suggested amounted to prosecutorial overkill aimed at persuading Manafort to implicate Trump in wrongdoing in connection with the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation".

The developments were first reported by ABC News, which said details of the deal would be announced in court on Friday.

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