The plea deal offers new details about the various ways in which Manafort sought to surreptitiously lobby the U.S. government and influence American public opinion toward Ukraine.
In 2012, Manafort attempted to help Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, by tarnishing the reputation of Yanukovych’s political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Manafort “orchestrated a scheme to have, as he wrote in a contemporaneous communication, ‘[O]bama jews’ put pressure on the administration to disavow Tymoshenko and support Yanukovych.”
Manafort set out to spread stories in the U.S. that a senior American Cabinet official “was supporting anti-Semitism because the official supported Tymoshenko,” according to the document. “At one point, Manafort wrote to an associate, “I have someone pushing it on the NY Post. Bada bing bada boom.” The document does not identify the then-Cabinet official and it wasn’t immediately clear if any such story was published.
As part of his deal, the government plans to seize four properties, including a nearly $2 million house in Arlington, Virginia, owned by one of Manafort’s daughters. The deal also calls for forfeiture of four financial accounts and a life insurance policy.
The move toward a guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously — but unsuccessfully — against Mueller’s probe. The 69-year-old political consultant was convicted last month in Alexandria federal court on charges of bank and tax fraud.
The real question is whether Manafort will cooperate with Mueller and implicate the President.
The jury in Virginia found that Manafort hid millions of dollars he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lied to get loans when the political party that was paying him was ousted from power and the funding dried up.
Legal experts say he faces eight to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines on the eight of 18 counts on which he has already been convicted. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.
It is unclear how a guilty plea might alter his ultimate sentence, and some lawyers have questioned whether he is focused on winning a reprieve elsewhere. Law enforcement officials have come to suspect that Manafort hopes he will be pardoned by the president.
Trump has sought advice from his attorneys on the possibility of pardoning Manafort and other aides accused of crimes.
Several defendants have cooperated or pleaded guilty in connection with the special counsel probe, including Manafort’s former right-hand man Rick Gates; former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort; W. Samuel Patten, who admitted arranging for a Ukrainian businessman to illegally donate to Trump’s inauguration; and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail last week after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, previously said there was “no chance” his client would flip and cooperate with prosecutors. Now it seems likely Manafort will cooperate.
Paul Manafort’s lawyers have reached a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, multiple outlets have reported. The former Trump campaign chair will appear in court in Washington on Friday and plead guilty to a reduced set of charges.
In advance of the court appearance, Mueller’s team has filed a new document that drops some charges and lays out what Manafort will admit to. He’ll plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States (related to his foreign lobbying work for Ukraine and his finances), and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice (related to attempted witness tampering earlier this year).
Reportedly, the two sides have also agreed to resolve 10 mistrial counts from Manafort’s Virginia trial last month. Much of Manafort’s money and property will also be subject to forfeiture, according to the agreement.
Still, there’s an enormously important question that remains unanswered: Will Manafort agree to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference — even if it means flipping on President Donald Trump?
A separate “plea agreement” document will likely be filed today. If “cooperation” is listed as a requirement of the plea agreement, it would obligate Manafort to cooperate with Mueller’s team. Not all plea agreements require cooperation. Michael Flynn’s and Rick Gates’s did. But George Papadopoulos’s didn’t.
The problem for Manafort is that even if Trump pardoned him, Manafort would still face numerous state charges and his federal convictions that would be admissible in some of those states. Moreover, Trump would only be strengthening the criminal obstruction and the impeachment cases against him. Thus is seems that Paul Manafort’s plea deal will hurt Trump. The only question is how badly?