White House says Manafort plea is 'totally unrelated' to Trump's 'victorious' campaign

Washington DC.- Manafort faces charges including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed to a plea deal Friday that includes working with the special counsel investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges outlined in a superseding information filed Friday in Washington, D.C., federal court, report the New York Times and Politico.

Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second Manafort trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering. 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. He worked on the campaign as an unregistered foreign agent. On Friday morning, however, that refusal came to an abrupt end.

In the Washtington case, prosecutors were set to lay out in great detail Manafort's political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

Even Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been one of Trump's most staunch defenders in the Russian Federation probe in numerous media appearances, conceded on Friday that Mueller's deal securing Manafort's cooperation was "a big win" and "big get" for the investigation into Trump's ties to Russian Federation, adding, "Potentially it opens up lots of doors that probably haven't been open before", according to an NBC News report.

As part of this plea agreement (which you can read in full here), Manafort has agreed to waive his right to have his counsel present during his future interviews with Robert Mueller.

Another approach would be for him to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon.

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It's been reported that two weeks before Trump accepted the GOP nomination, Paul Manafort offered "private briefings" on the state of the 2016 election to Russian Oligarch, and close Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska (who also has ties to Kilimnik). Mueller's team filed a document today, outlining charges of Manafort money laundering and tax fraud, and attempts to tamper with witnesses to obstruct justice.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Manafort case has nothing to do with Trump.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family", the President tweeted the week of Manafort's conviction in his Virginia trial.

Mueller also gained a key co-operator in Manafort, who participated in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Donald Trump Jr took despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's campaign. But Manafort's guilty plea - and, one could argue, other developments like it - "underscores the seriousness of this investigation", said Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.

Trump has sought advice from his lawyers on the possibility of pardoning Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, his attorney Rudy Giuliani previously told The Washington Post, and was counseled against pardoning anyone involved in the ongoing Mueller probe. 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.

The probe has cast a shadow over the Republican's presidency and Manafort's decision to cooperate deals a setback to Trump ahead of congressional elections on November 6. "It is totally unrelated".

But given Manafort's pre-existing financial connections to Russia, his agreement to help prosecutors with further investigations will most certainly feed speculation and theories that there's more to these relationships than we're now publicly aware of, beyond what we've been told about Russian lobbyists offering stolen emails and data from Hillary Clinton's campaign to Trump's team.

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