Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Mueller And Manafort Reach 'Tentative' Plea Deal To Avert Second Trial

TPM Illustration  Getty Images TPM Illustration Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 14 September, 2018, 17:05

Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort has reached a tentative plea deal with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, ABC News reports.

Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud in federal court in Virginia in August, a development that was widely viewed as a victory for Mueller's team in his first court test of the Russian Federation probe.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said Wednesday that his team wants to introduce evidence showing the rarity of FARA prosecutions and to argue that the prosecution was instigated by the special counsel's office because Manafort led the Trump campaign.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering "dirt" on election opponent Hillary Clinton.

Following Manafort's conviction in Virginia, Trump said he felt "very badly" for Manafort and praised him for refusing to become a cooperating witness for the government like the president's former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, who separately pleaded guilty in NY to tax fraud, bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.

His trial on the second set of charges is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday. Manafort had resisted agreeing to cooperate, particularly where President Trump was concerned, according to ABC News' previous reporting.

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

A pretrial conference scheduled for Friday morning, rescheduled late Thursday night.

Manafort's second trial is expected to 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.

In the Virginia trial, prosecutors said Manafort hid from USA tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle that included purchasing multimillion-dollar properties, an ostrich skin jacket and other valuables.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

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