Trump campaign chief Manafort will help Mueller investigation in plea deal

Paul Manafort

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President Trump's former campaign chief has agreed to co-operate with the special investigation on Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections as part of a plea deal.

Another case, another win for the special counsel team.

Another 26 people and three businesses, in Russia, have been indicted, including 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers in 2016. But the court filing says Manafort admits to the actions.

"If Manafort is willing to give Mueller information about Trump's contacts with Russian Federation, whether the contacts were direct or indirect, then this really is a disaster for Trump and his associates".

A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.

Richard Pinedo, who was not involved with the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty in a case related to the Mueller probe in February to aiding and abetting interstate and foreign identity fraud by creating, buying and stealing hundreds of bank account numbers that he sold to individuals to use with large digital payment companies.

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It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort's cooperation with Mueller's probe, dealing a blow to Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6.

Prosecutors applied "tremendous pressure on him" he claimed, but Manafort "refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a "deal". It shows that "Manafort has something of value to offer Mueller", tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

Now Manafort is taking exactly such a deal. Manafort told the judge he wants to plead guilty. Despite word that his lawyers were negotiating with the special counsel's office, there was no indication that any kind of co-operative agreement was on the table.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday before the hearing that a guilty plea would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign", she said. The truth just might implicate the president.

Mr Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation.

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The scope of co-operative plea deals are usually vague, and this one is no different.

In a statement, the White House distanced Mr Trump from the man who helped get him elected in November 2016 against the odds in a bitterly contested campaign in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Manafort took cryptic notes about that meeting, including worlds like "Illici" and phrases like "Offshore - Cyprus" and "Active sponsors of RNC".

There was no sentencing Friday, and Manafort is still detained in prison in Alexandria.

In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors said in a court filing that Manafort could be forced to forfeit assets that would deal him a significant financial blow: four houses he owns, including an expansive retreat in the Hamptons, plus four bank accounts and the proceeds of a life insurance policy. The once high-flying global political player has been brought crashing down to earth. But Friday morning provided the latest, strongest evidence that the probe has not been hindered. To all of these questions Manafort responded "I did". Prosecutors said they had to examine whether Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs served as a back channel to Russian Federation in the campaign. Trump's former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted financial crimes and is helping federal prosecutors in NY.

From the inside of a prison, state and federal convictions all look the same.

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