Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort agrees to plead guilty in deal with special counsel Robert Mueller
Former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort has agreed to plead guilty in a deal to resolve charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller, but it is wasn’t clear whether the longtime Republican operative would cooperate with prosecutors against President Donald Trump.
Manafort could prove to be a significant witness for Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion by members of Trump campaign with Moscow.
Jury selection for Manafort’s second federal criminal trial was scheduled for Monday in Washington. Revised charges filed against him on Friday accuse him of a myriad of criminal acts related to his consulting work in Ukraine.
The charging document, while accusing him of just two criminal counts, appears to be designed to resolve not only the entire case in Washington, but the prosecution in Alexandria, Virginia, where Manafort was convicted of eight counts last month.
The new document alleges Manafort engaged in a conspiracy involving money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, violating rules requiring registration of foreign agents, lying and witness tampering.
Criminal informations are routinely filed in federal cases when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty. The charging document will replace an indictment that had been pending against Manafort in Washington court, where the 69-year-old defendant is scheduled to appear later Friday morning.
A court document notes that the pretrial conference originally scheduled for Friday morning now will be an “arraignment and plea agreement hearing.”
In a statement Mueller’s office said: “Additional information will be provided in the near future.”
Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, entered the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington later Friday morning and did not respond when asked “why are they changing the plea.”
According to the charging document, Manafort will forfeit his home in the ritzy Hamptons section of New York’s Long Island, properties in New York City and property on Edgewood Street in Alexandria, Virginia,
In addition, Manafort will forfeit all of the money contained in four bank accounts and a life insurance policy.
With the newly revised charges, it is not clear what kind of prison sentence Manafort could be facing. Before the deal, he faced the possibility of decades in prison, which given his age would have effectively been a life term.
Manafort was convicted last month on bank and tax fraud charges. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts, for which Mueller could have sought a retrial.
He has been held in jail since June after Mueller accused him in the Washington case of trying to tamper with witnesses against him.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Both criminal cases relate to consulting work he and his associate Rick Gates did on behalf of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine in the years before both men worked on Trump’s campaign.
Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy and to lying to investigators. He testified against Manafort at his trial in Virginia.
Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and denied any collusion with Russians by his campaign and any obstruction of justice of the federal inquiry into the election.
Trump also has had warm words for Manafort.
“I must tell you that Paul Manafort is a good man,” Trump said last month. “He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years. And I feel very sad about that.”
He also praised Manafort for refusing to make any plea deal, unlike former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last month to charges and admitted making hush-money payments to two women who claimed they had had extramarital affairs with Trump.
The first section of the information filed Friday outlines Mueller’s case against Manafort:
The Special Counsel informs the Court:
1. PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR. (MANAFORT) served for years as a political consultant and lobbyist. Between at least 2006 and 2015, MANAFORT conspired with Richard W. Gates (Gates), Konstantin Kilimnik (Kilimnik), and others to act, and acted, as unregistered agents of a foreign government and political party. Specifically, MANAFORT conspired to act and acted as an agent of the Government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian political party whose leader Victor Yanukovych was President from 2010 to 2014), President Yanukovych, and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions that formed in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Russia).
MANAFORT generated more than 60 million dollars in income as a result of his Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT, with the assistance of Gates and Kilimnik, laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.
2. In furtherance of the scheme, MANAFORT funneled millions of dollars in payments into foreign nominee companies and bank accounts, opened by him and his underlings in nominee names and in various foreign countries, including Cyprus, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines (Grenadines), and the United Kingdom. MANAFORT hid the existence of the foreign companies and bank accounts, falsely and repeatedly reporting to his tax preparers and to the United States that he had no foreign bank accounts.
3. In furtherance of the scheme, MANAFORT concealed from the United States his work as an agent of, and millions of dollars in payments from, Ukraine and its political parties and leaders.
Because MANAFORT directed a campaign to lobby United States officials and the United States media on behalf of the Government of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine, and Ukrainian political parties, he was required by law to report to the United States his work and fees. MANAFORT did not do so, either for himself or any of his companies. Instead, when the Department of Justice sent inquiries to MANAFORT in 2016 about his activities, MANAFORT responded with a series of false and misleading statements.
4. In furtherance of the scheme, MANAFORT used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income. MANAFORT, without reporting the income to his bookkeeper or tax preparers or to the United States, spent millions of dollars on luxury goods and services for himself and his extended family through payments wired from offshore nominee accounts to United States vendors. MANAFORT also used these offshore accounts to purchase multi-million dollar properties in the United States. Manafort then borrowed millions of dollars in loans using these properties as collateral, thereby obtaining cash in the United States without reporting and paying taxes on the income. In order to increase the amount of money he could access in the United States, Manafort defrauded the institutions that loaned money on these properties so that they would lend him more money at more favorable rates than he would otherwise be able to obtain.
5. Manafort laundered more than $30 million to buy property, goods, and services in the United States, income that he concealed from the United States Treasury, the Department of Justice, and others. MANAFORT cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes.