President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes at a hearing Friday morning, ending his long losing battle with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
We don’t know if any sentencing deal was involved. It’s possible that Manafort’s and Trump’s lawyers decided Manafort should plead guilty, avoid a trial that likely would look bad for Trump, and then Trump can pardon him sometime down the road, likely after the midterms. We may know something later today.
Update: Politico is reporting that Manafort has agreed to cooperate with Mueller.
The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier trial, but only after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Later, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Manafort is agreeing to “cooperate fully and truthfully” with the investigation.
However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”
Separately, the agreement calls for a 10-year cap on how long Manafort will be sent to prison, and for Manafort to serve time from his separate Virginia and Washington cases concurrently. But it will not release Manafort from jail, where he has been held since Mueller’s team added witness tampering charges during the run-up to the longtime lobbyist’s trial.
Let’s hope “the source close to the defense” is wrong.