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Former Trump campaign chairman to cooperate with Mueller

Paul Manafort agrees to cooperate with special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department, including in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, CNN reports.

Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses, according to a court filing Friday.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that Manafort's plea agreement is a "cooperation agreement," and other charges will be dropped 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.

On Thursday it was reported that Manafort had tentatively agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that will head off his upcoming trial.

The scope of the cooperation was not immediately clear. President Donald Trump is not mentioned in Friday's filing, nor is Manafort's role in his campaign.

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. It is totally unrelated."

Manafort was found guilty in late August of eight charges of bank and tax fraud.

The jury found Manafort guilty on five charges of filing false income tax returns, one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 counts — three counts of failing to report foreign bank accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy and two counts of bank fraud – after the jury could not come to a decision on those.

Manafort faces a second trial in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on separate charges that include conspiracy, money laundering and making false and misleading as a foreign lobbyist in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

He surrendered himself to FBI agents last October after being charged with 12 counts, including conspiracy against the US. The indictment also included his former business associate, Richard Gates.

Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia but Trump has reportedly been informed he is not a target of the probe.

Mueller, a former FBI Director, was appointed by the Justice Department last year to oversee the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

His appointment came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Russia investigation due to his role as a prominent campaign adviser and surrogate.

In recent days, as the Manafort plea talks were ongoing, the President's legal team expressed confidence that if Manafort signed a cooperation agreement it wouldn't have anything to do with the President, according to a source briefed on their thinking.

In a statement Friday, the President's attorney Rudy Giuliani reiterated that confidence.

"Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong," said Giuliani, according to CNN.

Manafort's case marked the first indictment in Mueller's investigation. The allegations revealed last October reiterated a year of news reports that Manafort had secretly funneled income from Ukrainian lobbying contacts for years.

After his arrest in October, he was detained by the court in his Alexandria, Virginia, home for more than eight months.

Then in February, prosecutors filed new mortgage and tax fraud charges against him weeks after they discovered he was offering to secure his bail with homes tied up in his alleged mortgage fraud.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)
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