Paul Manafort will plead guilty, forfeit many assets in special counsel probe

Paul Manafort

U.S. 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.

The charges in Friday's filing were contained information that typically signals a deal has been reached.

The exact details of the agreement, as of 10 a.m. EST, remained unclear, including whether or not Manafort would cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia-related investigation. Regarding the Washington case, Manafort was accused of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, conspiring to launder money, and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department about the nature of his work.

The charges include conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Manafort served as Trump's campaign chairman until August 2016, when he was forced to resign from the post as reports emerged about his lobbying work for Russian-backed oligarchs in Ukraine. The court then changed Manafort's scheduled appearance later in the morning to an arraignment and plea hearing.

Manafort's legal team blamed most of his problems on former business partner Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty this year and testified against Manafort in Virginia.

During Manafort's first trial, Judge Ellis often butted heads with federal prosecutors. But Trump's presidential pardon powers only exist at the federal level, and if Manafort were to be convicted in any possible state-level prosecutions, the president couldn't grant a pardon.

Prosecutors had offered Manafort the opportunity to have a single trial on all charges, but he refused, forcing prosecutors to bring charges both in the Eastern District of Virginia and D.C.

Manafort made a similar unsuccessful request in his bank fraud and tax evasion trial in northern Virginia.

It is not clear whether any agreement with prosecutors would require Manafort to co-operate with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into possible co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court Friday that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement". The discovery of his witness contacts led to a superseding indictment in June and Manafort's jailing ahead of his trial. In an April court filing, Mueller's prosecutors defended their pursuit of Manafort, even though he wasn't charged with crimes related to Russian election interference. At that trial, Gates, who is cooperating in Mueller's probe, testified against him in dramatic form.

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