Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Here’s why Mike Pence should be ‘sweating’ over Paul Manafort’s guilty plea

Paul Manafort Modal Trigger Getty Images
Ellis Copeland | 15 September, 2018, 08:28

With today's agreement, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy against the United States including money laundering, tax fraud, operating as a foreign agent in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying to federal investigators; and witness tampering during his pre-trial release period.

Manafort had other charges dropped but he could still go to prison, marking a steep fall from grace for a multi-millionaire who was often at Trump's side as the Republican candidate took US politics by storm in 2016.

As part of this plea agreement (which you can read in full here), Manafort has agreed to waive his right to have his counsel present during his future interviews with Robert Mueller. It was not immediately clear either from Weismann's comments, or court filings, what that cooperation would entail.

But Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has received a lot of flak over the past year for defending Trump at times despite being a self-described liberal, says Team Trump should be deeply concerned about Manafort's agreement to fully cooperate with Mueller investigation, though he stressed that it's unlikely Manafort would have any evidence that could lead to impeachment.

Paul Manafort arrived for a hearing at District Court in Washington, D.C. He will not go on trial after all after having reached a plea agreement with the Justice Department. "It is totally unrelated". But Friday morning provided the latest, strongest evidence that the probe has not been hindered.

In court on Friday, Manafort stood stock still before the judge, answering her questions with single words in a low tone, or sat at the defence table. "People aren't going to say they will run against Trump unless they have the infrastructure but I've been trying to persuade people that it may not be that hard", he added. Jurors deadlocked on ten other counts.

A jury found Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud.

By striking an 11th-hour deal with Mueller, Manafort could be putting that potential pardon in jeopardy.

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Manafort had faced seven charges in Washington and faces another 10 possible charges in Virginia which had been declared in mistrial.

It's unclear which charges Manafort is pleading guilty to.

He was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces 7-10 years in prison in that case.

That came on the very day that Mr Trump's long-time lawyer Michael Cohen did "break" in a NY courtroom, and accused the president of breaking the law into the bargain. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had suggested a pardon might be a possibility after the investigation was concluded. The initial version, which was quickly revised, included "Paul Manafort will tell the truth" as part of the quote.

In addition to being the first conviction won by Mueller, Manafort is the fifth person to plead guilty to charges stemming from Mueller's investigation.

According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign". But last month, Trump expressed sympathy for him.

The plea deal precludes the need for the second trial, sparing Manafort the steep legal fees of a second round of prosecution. After news of Manafort's conviction, Trump tweeted on August 22 that he felt "very badly" for Manafort and his family, adding, "U$3 nlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break"-make up stories in order to get a 'deal.' Such respect for a courageous man!"

The document indicates he will admit to funnelling millions of dollars in payments into offshore accounts to hide his income from the Internal Revenue Service.

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