Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Trump former campaign head to help Russian Federation inquiry

Trump former campaign head to help Russian Federation inquiry

A plea deal by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to cooperate with USA prosecutors in their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election suggests he could shed light on unanswered questions revolving around the campaign, legal experts said on Friday.

The once-powerful Republican operative was found guilty last month of tax and bank fraud charges that could land him in prison for up to 80 years.

That case alleged that Manafort directed a large-scale USA lobbying operation for Ukrainian interests but never registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent despite being required to do so under the law, and that he concealed millions of dollars in income for the consulting work from the IRS.

The breach clause of the plea deal is remarkably bare, and the government has retained the right to use anything Manafort says in his cooperation meetings against him if prosecutors decide to pull out of the agreement and try him.

His DC trial was set to begin September 24.

Although the precise nature of Manafort's cooperation remains unclear, reaction to the news on Friday was swift.

"Manafort's decision to cooperate with Mueller's investigation could represent a watershed moment for the Trump presidency", Andy Wright, founding editor of the legal blog Just Security, told Vox.

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

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.

More news: Florence’s quiet potential disaster: Hog manure

The structure of Manafort's plea deal limits the effectiveness of any Trump pardon, said Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham University.

That trial was supposed to start next week in Washington.

Given Manafort's close involvement with Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, the news could constitute a major blow to President Trump as he tries to contain the damage from Mueller's probe. Any deal would not be final until Manafort admits guilt before the judge, who would need to approve the plea.

In a plea deal to avert a second trial on money laundering and illegal lobbying charges, Paul Manafort agreed on Friday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and another count of obstruction of justice. Manafort also hid the millions of dollars he made from that work from the US government and asked witnesses to lie to the jury in the trial he has now avoided. But, in the end, the Mueller investigation will likely come down to one central question: Did senior members of the Trump campaign, with the explicit knowledge of Trump himself, actively work with Russian government actors to help sway the election so that Trump would win?

It's true that nothing public in Mueller's investigation so far has touched Trump on the central questions of collusion with Russian Federation or obstruction of justice.

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely overlap with the conduct alleged in an indictment a year ago.

The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

Mr Trump had not said he would pardon Manafort, but nor had he ruled it out.

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal". Trump's former personal lawyer/fixer (and RNC deputy finance chair) Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations (2 campaign finance counts implicate President Trump).

Like this: