Manafort cooperation could energize Mueller probe: legal experts

15 September, 2018, 12:17 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Washington DC.- Manafort faces charges including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion with Russian Federation during the 2016 election drags on, more and more members of Trump's circle are getting pulled into the wreckage. In Virginia, he was found guilty on five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding a foreign bank account, and two bank fraud charges - all felonies.

The main focus of prosecutors in the second trial was the allegation that Manafort lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian politicians without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

"Manafort's guilty plea - with cooperation! - is an absolute nightmare for Trump, and his family", former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega told the Guardian in an email.

In-person jury selection for his Washington trial was set to start Monday, with opening statements scheduled for September 24 before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. On Friday morning, however, that refusal came to an abrupt end.

Or Mueller may be directly interested in what Manafort, who led the Trump campaign from April through August 2016, can describe about the campaign's interactions with Russians. The judge in the District of Columbia case ordered his detention on June 15 after reviewing evidence (pdf) that Manafort attempted to tamper with witnesses and determining that the defendant could not be trusted to comply with the judicial process. He had another trial coming up this month, and this plea deal was his way of avoiding it.

Now the special counsel's office can refocus on the central portion of its investigation - whether there was any co-ordination between the Russian government and the Trump team in 2016.

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty".

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

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However, when it comes to the issue of impeachment, Dershowitz suggested, Manafort likely poses no real threat. Mueller was authorized to look into matters that arose from the Russian Federation investigation, leading to the charges against Manafort, which are not related to the Trump campaign or to Russian Federation.

Today Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal charges as part of a deal in which he will offer full cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Friday's charging document replaces the prior indictment and calls for Manafort's forfeiture of real estate, money in four bank accounts and a life insurance policy. Patten worked with Manafort's Russian associate Kilimnik through 2017 and admitted in court to illegally using a straw purchaser to buy Trump inaugural tickets for an oligarch.

Manafort's decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

Donald Trump Jr, who organised the meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others, initially said it was mainly to discuss a programme on adoptions of Russian children. As a part of the deal, he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice. The president has previously signaled he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and his attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

The charges replace a raft of separate accusations that Manafort had failed to register as a foreign agent, lied to the government, laundered money and committed fraud.

The president tweeted "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal.

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