Today Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal charges as part of a deal in which he will offer full cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, was convicted in August of eight charges of tax evasion and bank fraud for concealing the money he had made from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine (including its former President Viktor Yanukovych).
The plea announced on Friday covered Manafort's work as a lobbyist for a now-deposed president of Ukraine, for which he did not register as required by law.
In a statement to CNN after the news of Manafort's cooperation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign".
The president's former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in NY.
Before Manafort's appearance, there was some discussion that he would plead guilty without cooperating and perhaps later receive a presidential pardon.
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Rudy Giuliani, Trump's attorney, echoed that.
Manafort appeared at the hearing with three attorneys, including Kevin Downing, who said nothing during the hearing. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge his plea agreement is a "cooperation agreement", and the other charges they will drop at sentencing at "or at the agreement of successful cooperation".
Manafort had proffered information to the government already, Weissmann said in a federal court in a Washington, DC.
The result also ensures that the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president's lawyer that Mueller bring his probe to a close. The latter charge is just a fancy way of saying he got caught moving money around and doing shady stuff for oligarchs-you know, normal Washington D.C. stuff (the worst thing to ever happen to Manafort was winning an election, if we had President Hillary Clinton right now, Manafort would still be peddling the influence of foreign nations in our nation's capital). "He's accepted responsibility and this is for conduct that dates back many years". Mueller has also gotten guilty pleas from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, while Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a case referred to the Southern District of NY by Mueller's office. His wife Katherine showed no emotion as he admitted his guilt.
During Manafort's Virginia trial, the president had spoken spoke warmly of him.
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The main focus of prosecutors in the second trial was the allegation that Manafort lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian politicians without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The White House had previously distanced itself from Manafort and downplayed his time leading the Trump campaign.
That includes Manafort's former deputy, Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort in Virginia.
"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence", Manafort said in February.
He has yet to be sentenced in Virginia, where legal experts say he faces eight to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines on the eight of 18 counts on which he was convicted.
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