Manafort Reportedly Looking For Plea Deal With Mueller

With a new trial set to start in Washington at the end of the month, reports are circulating that President Trump's former campaign manager is looking to cut a plea deal.

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted in Virginia last month on bank and tax fraud charges and is awaiting trial in the District of Columbia later this month on charges related to his lobbying for foreign governments, is reportedly seeking a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Manafort:

Days before in-person jury ­selection is set to begin in his second trial, President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in talks with the special counsel’s office about a possible plea deal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to ­describe the conversations, cautioned that the negotiations may not result in a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is prosecuting Manafort for alleged money laundering and lobbying violations.

But the discussions indicate a possible shift in strategy for Manafort, who earlier this year chose to go to trial in Virginia, only to be convicted last month in Alexandria federal court on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. He had derided his former business partner, Rick Gates, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against Manafort.

“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.

The specifics of Manafort’s current negotiations with prosecutors were unclear, including whether he would provide any information about the president.

Earlier this summer, Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said there was “no chance” his client would flip and cooperate with prosecutors.

However, Manafort’s current willingness to engage in talks could rattle Trump, who in the past has praised his former campaign chairman for his unwillingness to cooperate with the special counsel.

Prosecutors “applied tremendous pressure on him and . . . he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’ ” the president tweeted last month. “Such respect for a brave man!”

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Manafort’s attorneys, Downing and Thomas E. Zehnle, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Jury selection for Manafort’s second trial is set to begin Monday, with opening statements scheduled for Sept. 24.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson pushed back a scheduled pretrial hearing in the case from Wednesday to Friday. Court filings did not indicate the reason for the delay.

Manafort, 69, a longtime lobbyist and consultant with deep roots in the GOP, served as Trump’s campaign chairman for about six months, resigning in August 2016 amid increasing scrutiny of his work on behalf of a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

Both cases brought against Manafort stem from his work in Ukraine. The jury in Virginia found that Manafort hid the money he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lied to get loans when the political party collapsed and his funding dried up. In Washington, he faces charges of conspiring against the United States, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist, making false statements and witness tampering.

This isn’t the first time that there has been speculation about the possibility that Manafort could end up striking a plea deal with Mueller has been reported. In some sense, that question has been on the table since charges were first brought against the former campaign operative and lobbyist, and the ante has only been upped in the months that have followed. First, Manafort’s former close aide Rick Gates flipped and became a cooperating witness for Manafort, a move that ultimately led to him testifying against his former boss in the Virginia trial, a role he will likely play again in the upcoming District of Columbia trial at the end of the month. After that, Mueller clearly engaged in a strategy that was in at least some sense designed to tighten the screws on Manafort and force him to the negotiating table. These moves included filing new charges against Manafort and a former pro-Russian Ukrainian business partner, and successfully moving to have Manafort’s bail revoked after evidence came to light that Manafort had been improperly contacting potential trial witnesses and potentially seeking to influence their testimony. As the Virginia trial approached, and even while it was going on, there was some reporting that Manafort’s legal team and the Special Counsel’s office were engaged in plea negotiations of some kind. It was never clear how serious these previous reports of plea negotiations were, but this report appears to indicate that the discussions are far more serious, which could mean we see news of a plea deal before Manafort’s trial starts on September 24th.

From Manafort’s point of view, a guilty plea on the remaining charges, which could come with some agreement on a favorable sentencing recommendation from Mueller’s office in both the Virginia and District of Columbia charges, does have its appeal. On the Virginia charges alone, Manafort faces maximum sentences that would effectively mean that he spends the rest of his natural life in prison. Add the potential convictions in the D.C. trial into the mix, then Manafort faces the possibility of never seeing the outside of a prison again for the rest of his life. If he reaches a plea deal, there’s at least the possibility that he could end up with a sentence that would eventually allow him to get out of prison before he dies. Otherwise, the only hope that Manafort has is if the President were to decide to either pardon him or commute his sentence, however, there’s no evidence that such as move is forthcoming notwithstanding the fact that Trump has been highly critical of the Mueller prosecution and highly critical of those who have entered into plea deals while praising Manafort for standing firm.

From Mueller’s perspective, the benefit of a plea deal would depend on what information Manafort may be able to offer with regard to the ongoing Russia investigation. In some sense, that is going to be limited by the fact that Manafort was only affiliated with the Trump campaign for a short period of time and that he was not part of the campaign during the final months leading up to Election Day. Notwithstanding that, it’s worth remembering that Manafort was part of the campaign during a crucial point during which it is believed some of the efforts to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton from foreign sources occurred. Most famously, of course, Manafort was involved in the now famous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney who had previously been linked to the Russian government. Additionally, Manafort’s ties to pro-Russian Ukranians and Russian oligarchs could provide further insight into connections between Trump, his business interests, and his campaign, and Russia. Where all that information might lead is unclear, but it seems clear that Paul Manafort is someone that Robert Mueller would be very interested in talking to in great detail.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Russia Investigation, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    El Cheeto’s scam is breaking down, breaking down, breaking down…

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’m a little confused. I had read that Manafort was interested in entering a guilty plea, instead of going to trial…but that he would NOT be cooperating. Perhaps he is out of money? Perhaps he is counting on a pardon?
    If indeed he does flip…I think Dennison is fvcked…this guy seems to be the direct link.

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  3. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Unless and until a deal is reached, we won’t know if it will include cooperation. Given Manafort’s stature, though, and the nature of the charges against him it seems obvious to me that Mueller is going to want such cooperation as the price of an agreement, Otherwise, there’s no value to him in reaching a deal given the fact that the case in D.C. looks to be even stronger than the one in Virginia was.

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  4. Mr. Prosser says:

    I imagine the administration and republican leaders would prefer a plea and a pardon in order to avoid a trial lasting up to the midterm elections. Manafort working a deal independently throws a wrench into that.

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  5. James Pearce says:

    If he reaches a plea deal, there’s at least the possibility that he could end up with a sentence that would eventually allow him to get out of prison before he dies.

    I’m not a lawyer, and a Mueller skeptic to boot, but a Manafort plea deal seems like a very bad thing for the investigation.

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  6. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce: By what utterly daft reasoning could you arrive at the idea that a plea would be “bad” for the investigation?

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  7. James Pearce says:

    @Lounsbury:

    By what utterly daft reasoning could you arrive at the idea that a plea would be “bad” for the investigation?

    The thinking is that he’ll agree to a plea deal in exchange for something, for flipping or fingering someone else. And yeah, some plea deals work like that.

    But what if this is one of those, “We have a pretty good case but it’s going to be tricky to convict, so let’s plead it down” plea deals?

    What if it’s one of those “Pappadapolous got 14 days and you’re trying to give me life?” plea deals?

    I know, I know. Totally daft to consider other possibilities.

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  8. Tyrell says:

    We have some details from an “uniformed source” concerning Manafort’s “let’s make a deal”.
    Manafort will reveal the name of the person who has been writing things about Mueller on the restroom walls. In return, Mueller will reduce his sentence to time served, house arrest for one month, and he has to read and write a book report on all of Carl Bernstein’s books.

    “I walk the line. I walk the line” (Cash)

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  9. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m not a lawyer, and a Mueller skeptic to boot,

    You’re skeptical of Mueller? Of Mueller himself?

    We have extensive phographic evidence of Mueller, dating back decades, and he has held several high profile government jobs, and he has dealt with a large number of people in unscripted contexts. I think it is very improbable that he doesn’t exist, or is some kind of animatronic muppet.

    Now, whether this man is really Bob Mueller, or whether illegal immigrant Frederico Gonzalez has created a fake identity and is hiding in the last place law enforcement would look… that’s another matter. Who even questions whether the head of the FBI is an illegal immigrant? Who even thinks to question that?

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  10. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:..I walk the line.

    Sometimes I wonder if you are snortin’ that line.

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  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    But what if this is one of those, “We have a pretty good case but it’s going to be tricky to convict, so let’s plead it down” plea deals?

    Manafort has already received what is essentially a life sentence, and its likely the government’s case against him in the upcoming trial is stronger, and you think there is a good chance the plea deal is coming about because Mueller just ain’t got the stones? K.

    What if it’s one of those “Pappadapolous got 14 days and you’re trying to give me life?” plea deals?

    Ok…What if? Manafort will be unhappy?

    In your two scary scenarios in which a plea deal is a “bad thing,” one results in Manafort essentially spending life in prison. And the other one results in Manafort spending life in prison. In neither of these scenarios have you stated anything that’s, you know, bad.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Correction:

    On the Virginia charges alone, Manafort faces maximum sentences that would effectively mean that he spends the rest of his UNnatural life in prison.

    There is nothing natural about Paulie boy.

    @James Pearce:

    I know, I know. Totally daft to consider other possibilities.

    No. just totally daft to consider those 2 possibilities.

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  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I had read that Manafort was interested in entering a guilty plea, instead of going to trial…but that he would NOT be cooperating.

    Pretty sure Manafort and his lawyers were just blowing smoke up trump’s ass. What would be the motivation for Mueller to accept a plea deal and get nothing in return? It’s not for a reduction in case load (what case load?), it’s not a money saving move (these lawyers get paid whether they are in court or not) which leaves only Mueller decided to be a nice guy to somebody who was a complete ass to him and his investigation from before his indictment was handed down?

    Uh uh. Prosecutors take that shit personal.

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  14. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher: For all I know, the Mueller investigation is going to end up exonerating Trump.

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Manafort has already received what is essentially a life sentence

    He’s been sentenced already?

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  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    You’re right. He’s only been convicted, and with minimum sentencing he’s looking at essentially a lifetime sentence.

    Here, I’ve fixed it for you. I don’t think it helps your case at all.

    ————-

    But what if this is one of those, “We have a pretty good case but it’s going to be tricky to convict, so let’s plead it down” plea deals?

    Manafort has already been convicted and will receive what is essentially a life sentence, and its likely the government’s case against him in the upcoming trial is stronger, and you think there is a good chance the plea deal is coming about because Mueller just ain’t got the stones? K.

    What if it’s one of those “Pappadapolous got 14 days and you’re trying to give me life?” plea deals?

    Ok…What if? Manafort will be unhappy?

    In your two scary scenarios in which a plea deal is a “bad thing,” one results in Manafort essentially spending life in prison. And the other one results in Manafort spending life in prison. In neither of these scenarios have you stated anything that’s, you know, bad.

    ——-

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  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    To repeat, you’ve sketched out two scenarios in which Manafort either cooperates or is put in jail for the rest of his life, and you believe that’s somehow detrimental to the investigation. Care to explain? Or are you just going to stick with your usual Pearce vagueness because you haven’t fully thought things through?

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    the Mueller investigation is going to end up exonerating Trump.

    That is a distinct possibility, considering the fact that his ego alone could have been the reason for his blatant ham handed attempts at blocking the investigation and the very real possibility that they may not be able to find enough evidence to prosecute such a case, but how does that translate into Mueller skepticism? He was charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and any related matters that may be uncovered in the process. To date he has 8 convictions and 29 indictments.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    For all I know, the Mueller investigation is going to end up exonerating Trump.

    And, if Trump actually is innocent, I hope Mueller releases a report that says just that, rather than simply not charging him with anything and closing up shop.

    I think everyone would be ultimately relieved to discover that the Trump campaign was the victim of a clever Russian plan to discredit and delegitimize them with countless meetings of little or no substance and positioning shady but useless assets in the campaign (combined with an aggressive damage control operation by the Trumpers that made them look very guilty). Compared to the alternative of a President who is a foreign asset, that would be a breath of fresh air.

    I don’t think that’s likely to happen, though. Happy to be wrong.

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  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think everyone would be ultimately relieved to discover that the Trump campaign was the victim of a clever Russian plan

    I’m not so sure. It’s pretty clear that something happened. Is it better that the POTUS is an unwitting dupe to the Kremlin, or that he knew full well what was going on?

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: The problem with this scenario is it equates “The Trump campaign tried to illegally collaborate with Russia to influence an election but failed to do so”, with “The Trump campaign did not collaborate with Russia”. And based on what we know today, based on the facts already exposed, based on the tweets and words of Trump himself and several of his campaign officials, we know they attempted to illegally collaborate with Russia.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    We’ve lost most of our open trolls – it’s become impossible for them to even advance an argument. And now Pearce’s concern troll b.s. is putting him under strain. Even the vague are coming apart at the seams.

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  22. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Or are you just going to stick with your usual Pearce vagueness because you haven’t fully thought things through?

    I’m going to wait until the case is resolved. That’s what I’m going to do.

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  23. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “I’m going to wait until the case is resolved. That’s what I’m going to do.”

    Except, of course… you haven’t.

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  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: Oh, bullshit. Have the courage to say what you really think or shut the fuck up. I can’t help but notice you did not answer me here: @OzarkHillbilly: or here: @OzarkHillbilly:

    And I am one of the few who still think you have things to say worth listening to. Maybe you don’t.

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  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @wr: And he won’t.

    In moderation, for the sin of too many links in the duty of calling Pierce out on his all too obvious bullshit.

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  26. James Pearce says:

    Except, of course… you haven’t.

    Haven’t what? Declared Trump guilty?

    I haven’t declared him not guilty either. In fact, what I’m arguing against is the possibility that he gets away with it. That becomes more likely the more the Mueller investigation is seen as “Democratic politics by other means.”

    I just don’t see how any of this doesn’t also need a capable, non-superficial, non-doofus Democratic party who can demonstrate they have the stuff to deal with a post-Trump world. (In other words, “not the Resistance.”)

    the duty of calling Pierce out

    Call out culture, I’ve come to conclude, is so dehumanizing, but if it’s you’re duty…by all means, proceed, Governor.

    But, and I don’t mean to sound petty here, because I’m half sure it’s done just to annoy me, but it’s spelled “P-E-A-R-C-E.” Have you seen me spell it any other way? Perhaps you have mistaken me for a character from Community.

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  27. Grewgills says:

    @James Pearce:

    Perhaps you have mistaken me for a character from Community.

    The resemblance can be uncanny at times.

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  28. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Likely no one is still following this thread…but an important update to this story.
    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/13/giuliani-trump-manafort-plea-bargain-821797
    It seems like Manafort is negotiating a no-coorperation plea deal.

    Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact

    Likely he is counting on a pardon…so why spend a ton of money on another trial?

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  29. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce:
    So you’re going for the droolingly moronic “speculation”

    But what if this is one of those, “We have a pretty good case but it’s going to be tricky to convict, so let’s plead it down” plea deals?

    What if it’s one of those “Pappadapolous got 14 days and you’re trying to give me life?” plea deals?

    I know, I know. Totally daft to consider other possibilities.

    Yes totally daft to consider idiotic borderline conspiracy mongering speculation showing dim misapprehension of the facts already on the record.

    The Mueller prosecution already secured in a hostile jury environment 8 convinctions – lacking but one juror for a sweep – on the harder/weaker case. The DC case by all legal analysis is actually the stronger / easier one.

    If one is “speculating” it rather helps to have some dim comprehension of the fact set.

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