Paul Manafort, prosecutors reach tentative deal to avoid second trial, sources say

Shawn Thew  EPA  REX via Shutterstock

Shawn Thew EPA REX via Shutterstock

If Manafort simply pleads guilty and makes clear that he hasn't given evidence to the government, that could increase his favor with President Trump, who already has faulted what he calls Manafort's "unfair" treatment by the Justice Department.

Manafort's lawyers have been in talks with Mueller's team about a plea deal for at least the last few weeks. Manafort, however, is resisting and his team is pushing prosecutors for a plea agreement that does not include cooperation, at least as related to the president, sources said.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the ABC News report.

Another reason for Manafort to enter a plea - and the ABC News report reiterated this - is that Manafort would be spared exorbitant legal costs on a second trial that already appears likely to result in a guilty verdict, at least in part.

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleads guilty in Mueller probe
Earlier Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed a superseding criminal information document, which presages a plea deal. Mr Trump went so far as to suggest in a television interview that plea deals with prosecutors "should nearly be illegal".

As recently as last month, Trump praised his former campaign manager, who he said said was a "brave man" who "refused to break". Mueller's team has been investigating whether his connections in the region are linked to Russia's attack on the 2016 U.S. election. He was one of three Trump associates present at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, arranged after Donald Trump Jr. At that point, Manafort would not be able to assert his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination as it relates to the two cases against him. His former business partner, Richard Gates, has pleaded guilty and cooperated in Mueller's probe, testifying against him in the first trial. Opening statements for trial number two are still scheduled (until we learn officially that there won't be a trial) for September 24.

Trump has repeatedly come to Manafort's defense.

In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors said in a court filing that Manafort could be forced to forfeit assets that would deal him a significant financial blow: four houses he owns, including an expansive retreat in the Hamptons, plus four bank accounts and the proceeds of a life insurance policy. Doing so could jeopardize his chances at a presidential pardon. Desperate for cash, prosecutors said he lied to banks in order to secure $20 million in loans.

Before joining Trump's campaign, Manafort worked extensively for pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine.

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