The special counsel won another notch in its belt Friday by securing a plea deal and cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for Trump, in the ongoing Russian Federation investigation.
Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court Friday that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement".
Questioning of potential jurors had started in the D.C. Circuit for Manafort's next trial on seven counts of conspiracy, witness tampering and lobbying violations in respect to working on behalf of a foreign government. 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).
President Donald Trump knows that politically, he can't pardon Manafort now, Rossi said.
Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, echoed that idea, adding that "the president did nothing wrong". At the end of the hour-long hearing, Manafort responded to a statement of offense with "I plead guilty". But Manafort, whom we can safely assume is one of "the young and attractive lives (and others)" the president once lamented were being destroyed by the investigation, can nearly certainly expect to soon be the subject of a presidential tweetstorm that in no way demeans the highest office in the land.
This does not necessarily mean that Manafort has any dirt on Trump, not that this is going to stop any sort of speculation that he does.
Manafort had other charges dropped but he still looks likely to go to prison, marking a steep fall from grace for a multi-millionaire who was often at Trump's side as the Republican candidate took USA politics by storm in 2016.
Manafort had proffered information to the government already, Weissmann said in a federal court in a Washington, DC.
The move toward a guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously - but unsuccessfully - against Mueller's probe. "A pardon may take the case out of the federal criminal arena as it relates to a conviction and punishment, it does not however relieve one of the obligation to be a witness if he were subpoenaed to the grand jury or at trial".
The move allows him to avoid a second criminal trial and ends Manafort's more than yearlong fight against investigators in the Russian Federation investigation.
The two revised charges are conspiracy to defraud the United States related to lying to investigators, money laundering and other financial crimes, and conspiracy to obstruct justice for attempting to influence witnesses in his case.
Friday's charging document replaces the prior indictment and calls for Manafort's forfeiture of real estate, money in four bank accounts and a life insurance policy.
"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. But the plea nonetheless makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and co-operate with investigators in hopes of leniency.
Behind bars in the Alexandria, Va., detention center, Manafort's dark hair has sprouted patches of gray.
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.