As Inquisitr reported late Thursday, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign chief Paul Manafort was deep in talks with Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller over a possible plea deal that would avoid Manafort’s second trial, which was scheduled to get underway on September 24. Now, new reports have confirmed that Manafort has indeed agreed to a guilty plea — and his agreement may be a signal that he will now cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
UPDATE 1 p.m. EDT: At a court hearing Friday morning, federal prosecutors announced that Manafort will cooperate with the Mueller Russia investigation, and in fact, has already provided investigators with some information, according to a CNN report.
“Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge Manafort’s plea agreement is a ‘cooperation agreement,’ and other charges will be dropped at sentencing at ‘or at the agreement of successful cooperation,’” the network reported.
According to an ABC News report, “prosecutors revealed that Manafort had completed a successful meeting with investigators in which he offered them information they considered valuable.”
The news agency Reuters reported early Friday that Manafort, as revealed in court filings, “pleads guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.”
NBC News then confirmed the Reuters report, adding that Manafort’s plea of guilty to “conspiracy against the United States” is a blanket admission to a series of serious crimes, including “money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice.”
The second count, “conspiracy to obstruct justice,” covers the witness tampering charges against Manafort, on which he was listed as a co-defendant with Konstantin Kilimnik, who as Inquisitr has reported was named by Mueller as a Russian spy — and who has worked closely with Manafort to formulate pro-Russian policies for the government of Ukraine, during Manfort’s period as a top strategist for that country’s now-deposed strongman, Viktor Yanukovich.
While media reports Friday said that whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation remains unclear, Manafort is scheduled for a court hearing on Friday morning at which more details could be made public. In January, NBC News reported that Trump felt great relief when he became convinced that Manafort would not “flip” and provide Muller with information about him.
But according to NBC News correspondent Tom Winter, on his Twitter account Friday morning, the plea deal involving only two charges may be an indication that Manafort has indeed “flipped.”
“There’s only two counts in the criminal information filed by Robert Mueller so that IMPLIES that not only has Paul Manafort agreed to plead guilty but he’s also struck an agreement with Mueller,” Winter wrote, though he noted, “no information yet whether there is a cooperation component.”
Watergate figure and former White House lawyer in the Richard Nixon administration White House lawyer John Dean also said that Manafort’s deal points in the direction of cooperation.
“The superseding information to which Manafort is pleading sounds like he is agreeing to cooperation,” Dean said on Twitter. “This deal is favorable to Manafort. If no cooperation deal, Mueller already has his case and wants to wrap it up so they are going to compel his testimony. Let’s see what happens.”
The Friday filings also contain a number of new details about Manafort’s activities on behalf of Yanukovich in Ukraine, including an effort by Manafort to recruit what he called American “Obama Jews” to help smear Yanukovich’s leading political adversary, Yulia Tymoshenko, as anti-Semitic, New York Times reporter Kenneth Vogel reported on his Twitter feed.