Despite guilty plea, Paul Manafort still holds the Trump card

Paul Manafort to plead guilty as part of plea deal with special counsel

Manafort is pleading guilty to two criminal counts in Washington federal court - reports

It was not immediately clear if, as part of the plea deal with Mueller, Manafort would cooperate and provide any information to the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On another conspiracy-related front, as Natasha Bertrand points out today, Manafort might be in a good position to shed light on what exactly former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos - who has testified as part of his own plea deal that he learned that Russian Federation had stolen dirt on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" - might have told campaign higher ups about this at the time, another big unknown.

That could be potentially damaging for Donald Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as Manafort was present at the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 where members of the campaign met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Manafort has aggressively fought the charges against him and taken shots at his co-defendant, Rick Gates, who cut a deal with prosecutors earlier this year that did include an agreement to cooperate with the special counsel.

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

Dershowitz argued there's "no doubt" that Mueller's interest in flipping Manafort is Trump. 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!"

Correction: September 14, 2018 12:00 am - A previous version of this story incorrectly said Paul Manafort was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud. Manafort faces up to a decade in prison after the Virginia jury verdict, and a conviction in Washington could have increased his prison time. He called Manafort a "good man" and said he had been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department-sparking questions of whether Trump might pardon him.

Those were among the first charges stemming from Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort illegally lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government after failing to register as a foreign agent and laundered over $30 million from his business and evaded over $15 million in taxes. In this scenario, Manafort, in vowing to cooperate with the prosecution, would be seeking to force Trump's hand on the issue of a pardon.

Manafort is still subject to whatever sentence is imposed in the Virginia trial. His agreement is sweeping: "any and all matters as to what the Government deems the cooperation relevant".

Even after Friday's plea and cooperation agreement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders asserted that Paul Manafort's guilty plea has "absolutely nothing" to do with the President. Stone's communications have been a subject of the Mueller investigation, sources familiar with interviews of other Stone associates have said.

Manafort is the fifth Trump aide to plead guilty in connection to the special counsel's probe. As a part of the deal, he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Paul Manafort seated (L) as his lawyer speaks in court.

The charges include conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. But those were only some of the charges against him.

Moscow rejects the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that it interfered in the American democratic process and Trump denies campaign collusion.

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