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Swaine writes: "Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, is close to reaching a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial on further criminal charges, according to reports."

Paul Manafort. (photo: Getty Images)
Paul Manafort. (photo: Getty Images)

Paul Manafort Reportedly Close to Mueller Plea Deal to Avoid Second Trial

By Jon Swaine, Guardian UK

14 September 18

Reports say Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts of fraud last month, likely to enter guilty plea in court on Friday

aul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, is close to reaching a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial on further criminal charges, according to reports.

Manafort was said to be nearing an agreement with Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who had been preparing to prosecute him in Washington DC this month on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and witness tampering.

Manafort, 69, was last month convicted of eight counts in a fraud case brought by Mueller’s office in Virginia. The veteran Republican operative could be sentenced to decades in prison for those crimes.

ABC News reported on Thursday evening that Manafort was likely to enter a guilty plea in court on Friday, bringing an end to several weeks of negotiations between his lawyers and Mueller’s team. The next hearing in the case was rescheduled to 11am on Friday, an entry in the court docket said.

Several other news outlets later reported that Manafort was close to reaching a deal. Attorneys for Manafort did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not clear whether Manafort would agree to cooperate with Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was previously reported to be resisting Mueller’s demands for information relating to Trump in return for a deal.

Before joining Trump’s campaign, Manafort worked extensively for pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine. Mueller’s team has been investigating whether his connections in the region are linked to Russia’s attack on the 2016 US election. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to boost Trump’s campaign.

Following Manafort’s conviction in Virginia, Trump said he felt “very badly” for Manafort and praised him for refusing to become a cooperating witness for the government like the president’s former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, who separately pleaded guilty in New York to tax fraud, bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.

Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was quoted earlier on Thursday saying that the president’s team remained in “open communication” with Manafort’s as part of an agreement to share information, renewing speculation that Trump may pardon the former aide for his crimes.

“There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man,” Giuliani told Politico.

Manafort has been in jail for almost three months after his bail was revoked. Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort tried to tamper with witnesses in his case by contacting them and attempting to coordinate testimony. He was also charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.

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