Manafort Reaches Preliminary Agreement with Mueller to Avoid Second Trial

Shawn Thew  EPA  REX via Shutterstock

Shawn Thew EPA REX via Shutterstock

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to reaching a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. If Manafort is getting a deal, that means Mueller is getting something in return.

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 NY to tax fraud, bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.

ABC News reported news of the tentative deal on Thursday, saying it is expected to be announced in court on Friday.

Manafort came under scrutiny as part of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, though most of the charges against him predated his work on the Trump campaign. "Such respect for a fearless man!"

In the second trial, the former Trump campaign manager is facing charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government, money laundering, and witness tampering. Trump's critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russian Federation that Trump denies.

Jackson said she would allow Downing to file additional information about his argument before issuing a ruling, but was inclined to bar such references because they weren't relevant to the charges against Manafort.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. Desperate for cash, prosecutors said he lied to banks in order to secure $20 million in loans. Trump has not said whether or not he would pardon Manafort, but he has not publicly ruled it out.

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. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Prosecutors have approached the second trial much like the first: with a wealth of documentary evidence and a range of witnesses who worked with Manafort. In ruling against Manafort's request for a change of venue, Jackson said she could reconsider if they are unable to qualify enough jurors to proceed to jury selection in the case, scheduled to begin September 17.

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