Trump associate to admit wrongdoing

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors on Friday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running probe of Russian election meddling.
As part of the deal, Manafort, 69, could be required to cooperate with Mueller’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 US presidential election.
Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing in federal court. Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump’s presidency.
It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort’s cooperation with Mueller’s probe, dealing a blow to Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6.
Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.
Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to documents filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Five other charges were dropped in the new court filing.
A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.
Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.
Manafort’s decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.
On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: “Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!” According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the United States includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. The second count, for conspiracy to obstruct justice, concerns attempts to tamper with witnesses related to Manafort’s foreign lobbying.
Manafort’s conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller’s investigation. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering. — Reuters