Sources say former Trump aide Manafort close to plea deal with Mueller




  • In US
  • 2018-09-14 02:37:44Z
  • By By Karen Freifeld
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.  

By Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.

"It's close but not there yet," one of the sources said about negotiations over a deal.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Monday in Manafort's second trial in federal court on charges including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the tens of millions of dollars he earned lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in the first trial that ended last month. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

The talks over a deal come ahead of a planned hearing in Washington on Friday where the judge, among other things, is scheduled to rule on evidence to be allowed at trial. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

Three members of Manafort's defense team - Kevin Downing, Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling - declined to comment as they entered their office on Thursday evening. Mueller's spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the possible deal, which was first reported by ABC News.

Manafort's wife Kathleen also did not answer questions when she stopped by the lawyers' office to drop off a navy men's suit.

'BLOODIED UP'

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it made sense that Manafort, 69, was considering cutting his losses and avoiding the time and money needed to defend himself against a second trial.

Manafort is already facing 8 to 10 years in prison from the eight guilty counts in Virginia, terms that may not change significantly no matter the outcome of the second trial.

"With eight convictions already in place, and more possible convictions awaiting him, it seems that he has been bloodied up enough to see the light," Dressler said.

Manafort worked for five months on Trump's 2016 campaign, including three as chairman. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russia 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. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering "dirt" on election opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump's critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russia that Trump denies.

"I don't think he has any information that would hurt the president," Giuliani told Reuters.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had. "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' - make up stories in order to get a 'deal. Such respect for a brave man!", Trump wrote on Twitter on Aug. 22.

Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner and the campaign's deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Gates could be called as a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well, as could veteran political operative Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for Ukrainian politicians two weeks ago.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort's Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller's team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Nathan Layne and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney, Grant McCool and Paul Tait)

COMMENTS

More Related News

After chaotic day, Rosenstein stays in job but will meet with Trump
After chaotic day, Rosenstein stays in job but will meet with Trump
  • US
  • 2018-09-25 03:19:04Z

President Donald Trump and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, will meet on Thursday to discuss whether Rosenstein will stay in his job. Rosenstein had spent the weekend contemplating whether he should resign after a New York Times report last week said he had suggested secretly recording Trump in 2017, a source told Reuters. The White House announced the meeting on Monday after a flurry of conflicting media reports about whether Rosenstein, a frequent target of Trump's anger, would be leaving the post.

Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to meet on Thursday
Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to meet on Thursday

President Trump will meet with his deputy attorney general later this week after the two spoke, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says.

Rosenstein Resigns After Reports He Considered Taping Trump, Source Says
Rosenstein Resigns After Reports He Considered Taping Trump, Source Says

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official in charge of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, has verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to one person familiar with the matter. The resignation was delivered to Kelly late last week, but it's unclear

Amid furor, Trump pushes pause on deciding Rosenstein
Amid furor, Trump pushes pause on deciding Rosenstein's fate

As Air Force One streaked across the desert sky and Las Vegas faded in the distance, President Donald Trump began seeking opinions. The TVs on the plane, tuned as always to Fox News, carried headlines about an explosive new story: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had suggested wearing a wire to

Ex-White House aide revises Flynn sanctions conversation account: report
Ex-White House aide revises Flynn sanctions conversation account: report
  • US
  • 2018-09-22 19:01:16Z

An ex-White House official has revised a previous statement by telling investigators that former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have referred to sanctions when they discussed his calls with a former Russian envoy, the Washington Post reported on Saturday. K.T. McFarland's statement revised an earlier assertion to FBI agents that sanctions on Russia did not come up when she spoke to Flynn in December 2016 about his calls with Sergey Kislyak when he was the Russian ambassador to the United States, the newspaper said, quoting unidentified people familiar with the matter. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia and is cooperating in the...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: US

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.