Paul Manafort, 69, is reportedly discussing a plea deal with prosecutors in DC
Former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal criminal charges in a Washington D.C. courthouse Friday – and is now cooperating with federal prosecutors, according to the latest high-stakes turn in the case.
The stunning development that Manafort will assist prosecutors who went after him on a raft of money laundering and tax charges follows a series of earlier indications that Manafort would not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.
His cooperation, depending on the extent of it, could provide prosecutors with a valuable tool as they forge ahead with the Russia probe.
The existence of a cooperation was stated in court by a member of Mueller’s team, Andrew Weissmann, CNN reported Friday.
President Donald Trump has railed against the Robert Mueller probe as a ‘witch hunt’ and has hailed Manafort as ‘brave’ for refusing to make a deal.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement following the bombshell development in court.
‘This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated,’ Sanders said.
A cooperation agreement would bind Manafort to answering questions from prosecutors about the gamut of questions about what he knows as they pursue their probe of Russian election interference in the elections and connections between President Donald Trump’s team and Russians.
He also will be required to forfeit assets as part of the plea. Prosecutors say he deprived taxpayers of $15 million and laundered $30 million in assets. Manafort used overseas income to purchase homes in the U.S., then took out millions in bank loans to fund purchases here without declaring the money as income.
The feds will seize four of Manafort’s homes and some of his funds, the New York Times reported.
The cooperation deal comes after Manafort has already been convicted of federal crimes in a Virginia courthouse, and faces sentencing. It follows speculation that Manafort was following a different path, potentially pursuing a simple guilty plea or even seeking a pardon from Trump.
Prosecutors filed a new superseding indictment against Paul Manafort Friday, as the former Donald Trump campaign chair agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes.
COURT DATE: Kathleen Manafort (L), wife of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, arrives prior to a pre-trial hearing for Paul Manafort ahead of his upcoming trial on a range of charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2018
Manafort appeared in court Friday morning in what Special Robert Mueller’s office announced was an arraignment and plea agreement hearing that began around 11:00 am.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office sent out the new superseding criminal information laying out a series of charges against Manafort Friday morning.
New exhibits contained in the indictment show Manafort pushing an ‘action plan’ to go on ‘offense’ and show ‘what Ukraine is doing’ – actions that would appear to indicate a U.S. lobbying effort.
Also included is a 2010 memo Manafort wrote to pro-Russian Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich touting a ‘Public and Government Relations program’ Manafort said he created.
The specific details of his plea were not immediately known. The New York Times reported that prosecutors charged Manafort with one count of conspiracy and another of conspiracy to obstruct justice – a charge related to witness tampering in the case. The times reported they were dropping five charges dealing with money laundering and lobby disclosure violations.
Kathleen Manafort arrives at court as her husband prepares to plead guilty to federal charges
However the superseding indictment stated Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent, laundered funds, and hid Ukrainian payments that reached $60 million.
Typically in such cases the defendant must admit to all of the charges against him, even if he does not plead guilty to all the charges.
A plea allows Manafort to avoid a trial in Washington, D.C. Manafort has already been convicted in a federal court in Virginia.
A hearing set for Friday morning was pushed back to 11:00 am, signaling last minute maneuverings in the case.
Manafort’s criminal indictment was changed to a plea agreement, special counsel Peter Carr told the Post Friday morning.
The Special Counsel’s office released an official statement Friday that did not yet confirm the guilty plea.
‘A superseding criminal information against Paul J. Manafort, Jr., 69, of Alexandria, Va., has been filed today in the District of Columbia, which alleges a conspiracy against the United States (money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice) and a conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering),’ according to Mueller’s office.
President Donald Trump lauded Manafort following his conviction by a jury in Virginia
‘Additional information will be provided in the near future.’
On Thursday night, ABC News reported Manafort had made a ‘tentative’ plea deal to avoid a second criminal trial.
The latest indictment states that Manafort laundered more than $30 million to buy property, goods, and services in the U.S., and ‘cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes.’
The deal comes just days before a Washington, D.C. jury was to be empaneled, in a venue where Manafort would face an uphill climb.
The disgraced former Trump campaign chair and his attorneys had four hours Thursday in talks with Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe prosecutors to try to stop his second trial going ahead.
An SUV carrying Manafort was spotted at the offices used by Mueller on Thursday afternoon.
But it is not clear if the deal means he will flip and co-operate with Mueller.
The deal is expected to be announced in court in Washington D.C. Friday.
Manafort could simply plead guilty to some or all charges without co-operating and still reach a deal. Such a move could spare him some of the vast expense of paying to defend himself during a second trial, while potentially mitigating the amount of time the 69-year-old would spend in jail.
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani had earlier told Politico the president isn’t worried about Manafort possibly accepting a plea.
Manafort was scheduled to go on trial in D.C. on September 17, on charges including money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. Jury selection begins that day with opening arguments to follow a week later.
Before the deal emerged, Giuliani said: ‘We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial?
‘They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. The judge should decide this. Not Mueller. I think it’s pretty clear if they were going to get anything from him, they’d have gotten it already.
‘What’s the point of further harassing him?’
Manafort was convicted on eight counts in his first trial last month, and was said to be discussing a plea deal ahead of the second trial – which he has now made
President Trump has expressed sympathy for what his former campaign manager is going through
Key to Manafort’s strategy is whether he believes he can count on a pardon from President Trump, who has already made use of his pardon power on prominent conservatives including Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Trump took the unusual step of publicly praising Manafort immediately after his conviction on eight counts by a Virginia jury.
‘I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,’ Trump tweeted.
Then he took a shot at his own Justice Department, which prosecuted his former campaign chair, and compared Manafort favorably with longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges and indicated in court that Trump ‘directed’ him to make violations.
‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!’ Trump wrote.
Another potential factor in the possible plea is how many of Manafort’s assets he would be forced to forfeit, and whether he is able to preserve more assets for his family by making a deal.
Manafort is already in jail as he awaits his second trial, after prosecutors charged he engaged in witness tampering in advance of his Virginia trial.
‘Manafort’s leverage in trying to extract any kind of beneficial treatment from the prosecutors will all but disappear if he doesn’t jump at the opportunity to reach a deal before the next trial begins,’ former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz told the Washington Post.
Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of tax and bank fraud at an August trial in Virginia court. He has yet to be sentenced.
Trump and his team are unconcerned about a possible plea deal, Giuliani said, because they’re convinced Manafort has no damaging info on the president.
‘From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself,’ Giuliani said. ‘There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.’
A plea deal could benefit Trump in that it would keep Manafort and the Russia investigation out of the news ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
And, given the nature of the charges he was convicted on in Virginia, at 69 Manafort could be facing life in prison simply from those convictions.
Even though Manafort’s charges stem from his lobbying business and not his campaign work for Trump, the prosecution came from the Mueller probe of Russia’s election meddling.
And Manafort was part of the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where he, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Plea deals typically require the person to share useful information with prosecutors, but prosecutors will sometimes give concessions to someone who won’t cooperate but is willing to plead guilty to some charges.
Giuliani confirmed that Trump’s legal team and Manafort’s are in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.
Such an agreement would allow frequent communication between the two men’s lawyers. Those contacts could inform Manafort’s decision-making as he weights whether to make a deal, whether to cooperate, and whether he believes he is likely to secure a presidential pardon.
Last year, Trump’s lawyer at the time, John Dowd, floated the idea of a presidential pardon to attorneys for fired national security advisor Michael Flynn and Manafort, the New York Times reported in March.
The report raised questions about whether Mueller could in turn probe whether pardon offers were extended as a way to influence testimony, which could feature in an obstruction of justice case.
Dowd denied discussing pardons at the time. ‘There were no discussions. Period,’ he said. ‘As far as I know, no discussions.’
Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said the president isn’t worried about Paul Manafort possibly flipping
The president has expressed sympathy for Manafort, unlike his reaction to his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to eight counts the same day Manafort was convicted.
‘I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,’ Trump tweeted after the Virginia trial’s verdict. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!’
There has been speculation the president could pardon Manafort, which the president has not tamped down.
He has praised his former campaign chairman for not flipping.
‘One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial — you know they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping,’ Trump told ‘Fox & Friends’ last month.
‘It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal. … For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.’
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Awaiting sentence
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Awaiting sentence and second trial
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Awaiting sentence
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands upon his release.
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence.
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
POLITICS, SEX, AND LIES: THE RISE AND FALL OF PAUL MANAFORT
In the span of just two years, Paul Manafort has gone from one of Washington’s most sought-after Republican lobbyists to a political pariah – and now his conviction will seal that status forever.
It has been a long and spectacular fall from grace for the 69-year-old former Trump campaign manager, the son of a small-town mayor who went on to work for four U.S. presidents and made his fortune as the Washington mouthpiece for some of the world’s most notorious dictators.
Today Manafort has few defenders in the nation’s capital, after being convicted of tax fraud and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Even Manafort’s former boss, President Trump, claimed he never would have hired the former lobbyist if he had known about the allegations.
‘Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!’ wrote Trump in a Twitter post in June.
The power brokers: Paul Manafort, his future business partners Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, were photographed as young Republican operatives. Stone, a Trump confidante and notorious political dirty trickster is now fighting off the Mueller probe himself; Atwater died in 1991, a former RNC chairman with a reputation for dirty campaigns. All three cashed in on their political work by lobbying those they got elected
Manafort, the grandson of an Italian immigrant, was raised in a staunch Republican home in New Britain, Connecticut.
When he was 16, his father Paul John Manafort Sr. was elected mayor of New Britain and served for three terms.
In 1981, Manafort Sr. was indicted – but later acquitted – on perjury charges in a sweeping city corruption and bribery scandal that also ensnared the police and fire chiefs.
After Catholic parochial schools and graduating from Georgetown University Law School, Manafort went on to work as an advisor for Republican Presidents Gerald Ford.
He served as an advisor to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole’s presidential campaign.
But he – and his business partners – worked out how to turn political advising into a gusher of cash: by lobbying the very politicians they had helped elect.
He co-founded a prominent lobbying firm with ex-Nixon aide Roger Stone, and other partners, which shopped their access to top Republicans to U.S. businesses, state and city governments, and anyone who would pay.
That came to embrace the wider world too; the Manafort lobbying roster included brutal regimes willing to pay high fees for his services – including Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire military leader Mobutu Sese Seko.
Betrayed: Kathleen Manafort stood by her husband despite his family finding proof of his mistress on Instagram; she attended every minute of his trial
Manafort went on to found his own political consulting firm in 2005, bringing on his former intern Rick Gates as his trusted deputy.
He also continued to take on controversial clients. In 2010, Manafort helped elect Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, head of Ukraine’s Putin-allied Party of Regions.
The victory paid off – between 2010 and 2014, federal investigators said Manafort’s firm earned ‘a cash spigot’: $60 million in fees from the Party of Regions’ political patrons.
According to prosecutors, Manafort stashed the funds away in a series of offshore bank accounts and shell companies, and failed to disclose the income in his tax returns. In total, they claim he dodged taxes on $15 million.
But after Yanukovych was voted out of power by Ukraine’s parliament in 2014, Manafort’s fortunes suddenly changed. He stopped getting payments from Yanukovych’s wealthy oligarch supporters, and started to have trouble paying his bills.
This is when prosecutors claim Manafort started applying for loans using phony financial information. In total, they said he scammed banks out of $20 million.
Manafort’s alleged crimes were uncovered during the course of a special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, who has been investigating potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump campaign.
In addition to the tax and bank fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort also faces additional counts of failing to register as a foreign agent for his Ukraine work. That trial is set to take place in Washington, D.C.
Even before the charges were filed against him, Manafort’s personal life had been unravelling, according to years of hacked text messages between his daughters Andrea, 32, and Jessica, 36, that were posted online.
According to the messages, Manafort’s family had caught him having an affair with a woman who was around the same age as his daughters, renting a pricy house for her in the Hamptons and paying her credit card bill.
They discovered the affair after seeing the woman’s posts boasting about her expensive travel and dinners on Instagram.
Manafort, who was undergoing an emotional breakdown according to the messages, committed himself to a psychiatric clinic in Arizona in 2015.
Texts: Manafort’s daughters Jessica (left, with now ex-husband Jeff Yohai) and Andrea (right with husband Christopher Shand) exchanged text messages which were hacked revealing his affairs and calling him a psychopath.
Fruits of lobbying: This is the condo overlooking the Potomac where the FBI raided Manafort on orders from Mueller. He bought it for $2.75 million, part of a property empire worth conservatively $15 million
After he was released in 2016 – claiming he had ‘new insight’ into himself – he linked up with the Trump campaign and became the candidate’s campaign manager during the crucial months surrounding the Republican National Convention.
His daughter Andrea took a different view of that. She wrote in a leaked text to a friend, who was not named in the leak: ‘Trump probably has more morals than my dad. Which is really just saying something about my dad. My dad is a psycho!!! At least trump let his wives leave him. Plus, Trump has been a good father.’
And she also texted: ‘Trump waited a little too long in my opinion, but I can attest to the fact that he has now hired one of the world’s greatest manipulators. I hope my dad pulls it off. Then I can sell my memoir with all his dirty secrets for a pretty penny.’
His other daughter, Jessica Manafort filed to change her name to Jessica Bond in August, after his conviction, telling the Los Angeles Times: ‘I am a passionate liberal and a registered Democrat and this has been difficult for me.’
Despite the clearly unhappy family, Manafort’s wife Kathleen stood by him in the face of his infidelity.
She loyally attended each day of his tax fraud trial, always sitting in the row directly behind his defense table.
Since June, Manafort has been incarcerated for alleged witness tampering related to his foreign agent case. He has been serving that time in a county jail in Alexandria which is close to the federal court where his tax and bank fraud trial was held.
After his conviction on eight of the 18 charges, he was kept inside because the outcome did not affect the allegation of witness tampering.
In a recent mug shot, the fashion-conscious Manafort sported a jailhouse jumpsuit and shadowy stubble. His brown hair, which he previously dyed, is now tinged with grey.
The former lobbyist, who once spent $18,000 on a python skin jacket, has also been forced to attend his trial without socks – because he reportedly balked at the white ones he is required to wear as an inmate.
Manafort’s conviction even impacted the legacy of his father, a popular three-term mayor in New Britain, Connecticut, from 1965 to 1971 – who was himself investigated for corruption, but unlike his son, never charged.
In August the city changed a street named after the former mayor from ‘Paul Manafort Drive’ to ‘Paul Manafort Sr. Drive’ in order to distance it from the controversy surrounding Manafort’s trial.