Manafort and Mueller Reach Plea Agreement to Avoid 2nd Trial

Longtime political strategist was scheduled to stand trial on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering…

Manafort and Mueller Reach Plea Agreement to Avoid 2nd Trial

Paul Manafort/IMAGE: NBC via YouTube

(Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times) Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has reached a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to avert a second trial on federal charges stemming from his lucrative work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Prosecutors with Mueller’s office filed new criminal charges Friday in the case. The charges, which replace the existing indictment of Manafort, were done as a “criminal information,” a legal document that can only be filed with the defendant’s consent. Such filings typically indicate that a deal has been reached.

Manafort’s legal team and Mueller’s prosecutors are scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. Friday before U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson for a pretrial conference in advance of jury selection set for next week, and a plea deal could be announced at that point.

The longtime political strategist was scheduled to stand trial in Washington on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false statements and obstruction of justice. He was convicted last month in a separate federal trial in Alexandria, Va., on eight charges of bank and tax fraud, also related to his work in Ukraine. The jury could not reach a verdict on 10 other counts.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort, 69, failed to report tens of millions of dollars in income he earned from 2010 through 2014 by working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He used that money to finance a lavish lifestyle and turned to lying on bank loans to keep the cash flowing after his Ukrainian business dried up, prosecutors alleged.

Manafort and his legal team have long said they were not interested in pleading guilty or cooperating in special counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign and related matters.

But Manafort has been under mounting financial pressure, which may have contributed to a change of heart. Legal defenses in financial fraud cases are costly, and his conviction in Virginia will probably result in a prison sentence of about 10 years, according to legal experts.

It is not clear how Trump would react to a plea deal by Manafort. The president has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and has lamented the prosecution of his former campaign chairman.

“It doesn’t involve me, but it’s a very sad thing,” Trump said after Manafort’s conviction last month.

Manafort’s team has been engaged in plea discussions with Mueller’s prosecutors since last month to avoid a second trial.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, told Politico late Wednesday that a guilty plea would not preclude Trump’s granting Manafort a pardon. “No, it doesn’t. I can’t speak for his exercising discretion on a pardon. But I don’t see why it would foreclose it, no.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, could not be reached for comment. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, declined to comment.

©2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.