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Ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort to plead guilty to conspiracy charges

Ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort to plead guilty to conspiracy charges

Updated: President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of conspiracy on Friday in a deal that requires cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But given Manafort's pre-existing financial connections to Russia, his agreement to help prosecutors with further investigations will most certainly feed speculation and theories that there's more to these relationships than we're now publicly aware of, beyond what we've been told about Russian lobbyists offering stolen emails and data from Hillary Clinton's campaign to Trump's team.

Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second Manafort trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the USA, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering. Manafort was convicted last month in the Virginia case of bank fraud and tax crimes.

Manafort made millions of dollars working in Ukraine before taking an unpaid position with Trump's campaign for five months.

Trump last month praised Manafort for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had. Manafort told the judge he wants to plead guilty.

In the new filing, prosecutors dropped the bulk of the charges against Manafort, filing new paperwork that includes just two counts that resemble in many ways the original allegations made in an indictment past year.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's attorney, echoed that.

Manafort used one of his offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay the law firm-a fact he didn't disclose to the public, the information said.

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Manafort had other charges dropped but he still looks likely to 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 USA politics by storm in 2016.

The court filing said Manafort's homes in New York City, in the Hamptons and in Virginia, as well as money from his bank accounts and life insurance policies may be seized by the government as part of the deal. The guilty plea also underscores the seriousness of this investigation.

Manafort had faced seven charges in Washington and faces another 10 possible charges in Virginia which had been declared in mistrial. Mueller has also gotten guilty pleas from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, while Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a case referred to the Southern District of NY by Mueller's office. "He's accepted responsibility and this is for conduct that dates back many years".

The Virginia case was the first brought by Mueller to go to trial, and the guilty finding by the jury - on eight of 18 charges - was a significant victory for Mueller's team.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted that the Manafort case was unrelated to Trump.

There was no sentencing Friday, and Manafort is still detained in prison in Alexandria. But the plea nonetheless makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and co-operate with investigators in hopes of leniency.

The jury in that case deadlocked on 10 counts that on Friday were dropped as part of the plea deal.


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