Paul Manafort expected to plead guilty, avoid second trial

Washington DC.- Manafort faces charges including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States

Several media outlets reported that Manafort is close to a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The scope of the cooperation was not immediately clear.

Even Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been one of Trump's most staunch defenders in the Russian Federation probe in numerous media appearances, conceded on Friday that Mueller's deal securing Manafort's cooperation was "a big win" and "big get" for the investigation into Trump's ties to Russian Federation, adding, "Potentially it opens up lots of doors that probably haven't been open before", according to an NBC News report. "It is totally unrelated".

"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence", Manafort said in February. "Now, he plays out the string, but I think he cuts it", Litman said. Manafort did not contest the other five counts against him. In DC, his seven criminal counts are rewritten as two. The former includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Accounts, and the latter includes the charge of witness tampering. Manafort's attorneys had argued that the trial should be moved to Roanoke, Virginia, because the intensity of publicity in Washington made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

In the courtroom, Manafort stared straight ahead, while Weissman read a condensed version of the litany of illegal acts to which Manafort is pleading guilty. Manafort is the fifth person linked to Trump to plead guilty to criminal charges.

The longtime political operator who had advised presidents from Gerald Ford to Trump has been incarcerated since mid-June, when D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled he posed a flight risk and a danger to the community. Because of the Justice Department's official view that a sitting president can not be prosecuted, Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have chose to fight the investigation as a political battle as well as a legal one.

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president did nothing wrong. The initial version, which was quickly revised, included "Paul Manafort will tell the truth" as part of the quote.

"Well, of course they should be", said the law professor, who later underscored that the only reason Mueller would be interested in flipping Manafort is if he believes he can get damaging information on Trump.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement after the deal was announced. But last month, Trump expressed sympathy for him.

The plea deal would allow Manafort to avoid a second trial that had been scheduled to start next week in Washington.

Just over three weeks ago, the president was praising his former campaign chief as a "brave man" who, in contrast to his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, "refused to break and make up stories in order to get a deal".

In their filing, prosecutors describe Manafort's scheme to take in more than $60 million from pro-Russian Ukrainians and launder that money to avoid paying taxes. He also agreed to forfeit some properties. Jury selection had been set to begin on September 17 in his second trial.

A pardon, however, has always been an insecure lifeline for Manafort.

Trump minimized Manafort's involvement in his campaign after a security briefing in August 2016, amid reports of a $12.7million "off the books" payment to Manafort from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions political party. And Manafort could conceivably fill Mueller in on that, if it happened.

Paul Callan is a CNN legal analyst, a former NY homicide prosecutor and of counsel to the NY law firm of Edelman & Edelman PC, focusing on wrongful conviction and civil rights cases. Gates testified against Manafort in the Virginia trial, saying his former boss had directed him to commit the fraud. He is also accused of tampering with witnesses in the case. In previous court filings, prosecutors allege he had ties to the Russian GRU, a military intelligence agency.

Manafort is expected to appear in court later Friday morning (local time).

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