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The former chairman of US President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, has reportedly reached an agreement to plead guilty in the special counsel case against him ahead of his second trial on corruption-related charges.
The plea deal is expected to become public in court on Friday, but ABC News reports that three sources familiar with the situation told them it is not yet clear whether the plea deal entails an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors in the ongoing special counsel probe or whether the aim is to avoid a costly and stressful trial. Manafort and his attorneys negotiated for more than four hours with members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Reuters reported shortly after news of the tentative plea deal broke that Manafort and Mueller were “close, but not there yet” on an agreement.
Mueller took over an FBI counter-intelligence investigation, once spearheaded by fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, in May 2017 with the primary mandate of investigating and prosecuting any links or ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation. So far Mueller, has not filed any charges based on crimes of collusion. However, critically, his mandate also authorized the investigation of “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the [collusion] investigation.”
That directive resulted in numerous charges against Manafort, eight of which he was found guilty of by a Virginia jury in late August. The maximum penalty for the crimes Manafort has been found guilty of is 80 years in prison. Another 10 charges were not upheld, as the jury could not reach a consensus.
In the District of Columbia, Manafort has also been charged with other counts of fraud and with failure to register as a foreign agent over lobbying he allegedly did on behalf of the government of Ukraine. He was expected after his conviction in Virginia to appear before a DC court over those charges later in September.