Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

Bill Hennessy  Reuters

In Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that based on the guidelines, which are determined based on factors such as Manafort's involvement and the nature of the crimes, he faces a range of 210 to 262 months and a $400,000 fine.

Seven charges in a previous indictment against Manafort were reduced to just two in a criminal information submitted to the court Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, signaling a deal had been agreed with Manafort's lawyers to accept guilt.

He had been scheduled to begin jury selection for his second trial in Washington on Monday for charges that included money laundering, failing to register as an agent of a foreign government and witness tampering.

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

Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday that "any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or otherwise interfere in this investigation would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress".

In this photo taken July 21, 2016, then-Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort stands between the then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump during a walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The special counsel's office added a second potential cooperator against Manafort in late August when another lobbyist for the Ukrainians, Sam Patten, pleaded guilty to a foreign lobbying charge. At the end of the hour-long hearing, Manafort responded to a statement of offense with "I plead guilty".

Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's attorney, echoed that.

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"What we will find out in the days and weeks ahead is just how much Manafort knows and how much he can tell us about what Trump knew regarding Russian interference on his behalf", Rubin wrote.

Earlier this year, Manafort derided Gates, his former business partner, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against his former partner.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Mr Trump in the Russian Federation probe, said on Friday before the hearing that a guilty plea would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. The result also ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president's lawyers that Mueller bring his probe to a close.

The plea agreement says Manafort agrees to cooperate in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant.

Manafort is the fourth Trump associate to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation.

That trial was supposed to start next week in Washington.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family", the President tweeted the week of Manafort's conviction in his Virginia trial. He's accepted responsibility, and this is conduct that dates back many years.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

That includes Manafort's former deputy, Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort in Virginia. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial.

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