Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Manafort cooperation could energise Mueller probe - legal experts

Manafort cooperation could energise Mueller probe - legal experts

Places like Virginia and NY, both of which have Democratic attorneys general, could prosecute Manafort on state tax violations, for instance. Although such work is required to be registered with U.S. authorities under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Manafort neglected to do so for years.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018.

Mueller had already secured cooperation from a former national security adviser who lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador; a campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with Putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside Manafort but ultimately turned on him.

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

"If Manafort is willing to give Mueller information about Trump's contacts with Russian Federation, whether the contacts were direct or indirect, then this really is a disaster for Trump and his associates".

A jury in Eastern Virginia found the former political consulting titan guilty on eight counts related to tax evasion and loan fraud last month but remained hung on 10 other counts.

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump. They said "The President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth"-taking out the truth part because that is very much the problem".

According to the presiding judge, such co-operation includes sitting for interviews and briefings with Robert Mueller's team, handing over any relevant documents, and testifying before any future grand juries or, if necessary, criminal trials.

Had he chose to cooperate with prosecutors well before that trial began - he had months to do so - the plea agreement would probably have looked a lot different, and more balanced, than the one filed in court Friday in D.C.

Manafort's cooperation could yield Mueller the most important information yet when it comes to President Trump's potential conspiracy with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and another of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Cornell University professor of law Jens David Ohlin said it was hard to predict what information a cooperation agreement will yield but that Manafort's plea deal could be a serious problem for Trump.

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As we know, Mueller has indicted 25 Russians (13 Russian entities were indicted earlier this year for their propaganda campaign, and 12 Russian intelligence officers (GRU) were indicted for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign during the 2016 election and leaking through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0). He also has entered his guilty plea before the runup to the mid-term elections, avoiding the damaging anti-Trump headlines that could have emerged from a new trial in Washington. He did not elaborate on the agreement.

But what Manafort knows about the Trump Tower Russian meeting may be only "the tip of the iceberg", according to Vox's worldwide security expert Alex Ward.

Manafort began his work as a lobbyist and political consultant for Yanukovych in 2004 upon the advice of Deripaska.

A court filing Friday shows a plea hearing is set for later in the morning.

Manafort had faced seven charges in Washington and faces another 10 possible charges in Virginia which had been declared in mistrial.

The only thing the agreement appears to lack is a pledge by Manafort to conduct the members of the prosecution to team to his favorite tailors.

Manafort oversaw the 2016 Republican National Convention in which the party's platform on Ukraine was altered in a way that made it more in line with Russian interests.

He also emphasized that Manafort is not a credible witness, having just admitted to obstruction of justice and lying.

Mueller's investigators might also be looking to Manafort to learn whether the Trump team offered anything to the Russians in exchange for campaign help, said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor.

Added Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani: "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign".

Mr Trump went so far as to suggest in a television interview that plea deals with prosecutors "should nearly be illegal".

In March 2016, Manafort joined the Trump campaign and served as campaign chairman from June to August.

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