Manafort makes deal with Mueller to avoid another trial

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

In a dramatic reversal, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is poised to plead guilty Friday morning to federal criminal charges arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

It comes three weeks after Paul Manafort was convicted in a separate trial on eight counts related to financial fraud, and as the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation increasingly pressures the White House.

Manafort is due to appear in court later today for a plea hearing, ahead of his trial on charges relating to Ukrainian political consulting work.

In-person jury selection for his Washington trial was set to start Monday, with opening statements scheduled for September 24 before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

Judge TS Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 other charges after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

If he pleads guilty, he would avoid this trial.

This, in turn, may endear him to President Trump, who has already called Manafort a "good man" who has been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department.

The punishment that Manafort may receive related to his D.C. case, and any cooperation he may have offered the government, weren't immediately clear.

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Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors with Mueller's office filed new criminal charges Friday in the case.

He has yet to be sentenced in Virginia, where legal experts say he faces 8 to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines on the eight of 18 counts on which he was convicted.

The case was brought by Mueller's team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election.

Manafort's decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

Earlier this year, Manafort derided Gates, his former business partner, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against his former partner.

Prosecutors "applied tremendous pressure on him and. he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal, ' " the president tweeted last month.

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