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Report: Paul Manafort sought plea deal with Mueller in Washington, DC, trial

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paul manafort donald trump.JPG
Manafort
served as Trump’s campaign manager in mid-2016, when he won the
Republican Party’s nomination.


Reuters



  • Paul Manafort’s legal team was reportedly trying to
    secure a plea deal last week for Manafort in his second trial
    in Washington, DC.
  • Manafort’s lawyers were discussing a possible plea with
    the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last week, as a jury
    in Virginia moved toward convicting Manafort on eight counts of
    tax and bank fraud.
  • But talks broke down when Mueller raised several issues
    with Manafort’s lawyers.
  • A plea deal does not necessarily include a cooperation
    agreement. Instead, most defendants plead guilty to avoid
    facing a long and expensive trial in exchange for a reduced
    sentence, if prosecutors agree to such a deal.
  • Legal experts say the most likely reason Manafort has
    not flipped is the possibility of a presidential
    pardon.

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As a Virginia jury was moving toward convicting him on eight counts
of financial fraud last week, Paul Manafort’s lawyers were
reportedly in talks with prosecutors about securing a plea deal
before his second trial in Washington, DC.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that
Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s
campaign, engaged in discussions of a possible plea deal to
prevent the second trial from going forward.

However, the report said those talks broke down when the special
counsel Robert Mueller raised a number of issues with Manafort’s
lawyers. Sources told The Journal it was unclear what those
issues were.

Manafort’s first trial, in the Eastern District of Virginia,
focused primarily on his efforts to commit tax and bank fraud
related to his political consulting work in Ukraine. He was
convicted last week on five
counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of
failure to report foreign bank accounts. His former right-hand
man, Rick Gates, struck a plea deal with Mueller’s team in
February and was the government’s star witness against Manafort
in the trial.

Manafort was charged with 18 counts total in the Virginia trial,
but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the other
ten counts, leading US District Judge T.S. Ellis III to declare a
mistrial on those. One of the jurors
told Fox News last week
that the vote on those 10 counts was
11 to 1 in favor of conviction. Prosecutors have until Wednesday
to announce whether they will retry Manafort on those charges.

His second trial will take place in Washington, DC, and is
scheduled to kick off on September 17. Prosecutors have charged
Manafort in the second indictment with money laundering,
conspiracy, making false statements, obstruction of justice, and
failure to register as a foreign agent.

According to a court filing earlier this month, Mueller’s team
plans to introduce three times as much evidence in the
Washington, DC, trial as it did in the Virginia trial. In the
latter, they showed the jury around 400 documents, emails, and
financial records to make their case. They plan to introduce
“well over” 1,000 pieces of evidence in the Washington, DC trial,
the court filing said. They also said they expect to take ten to
12 days to make their case in the second trial.

Manafort’s efforts to secure a plea deal last week do not
necessarily indicate that he was willing to flip in Mueller’s
Russia probe, which is examining Russia’s interference in the
2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded
with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor.

Instead, in most cases, defendants typically plead guilty to
avoid a lengthy trial and secure a reduced sentence if
prosecutors agree to such a deal.


Trump
President
Donald Trump on Monday repeatedly ignored questions about the
death of Sen. John McCain.

Evan
Vucci/AP


That said, the biggest question for legal experts is why
Manafort chose to go to trial in the first place.

The answer to why Manafort hasn’t flipped, they say, can likely
be boiled down to one thing: a presidential pardon.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lead defense lawyer, said the president is
not currently considering pardons for anyone caught in Mueller’s
crosshairs and will wait until the end of the investigation to
make his final decisions.

But Trump has made several statements indicating that he may show
leniency toward his former campaign chairman.

“Manafort maximizes his chances of getting a pardon by going to
trial,” said Alex Whiting, a longtime former federal prosecutor
in Boston and Washington, DC. “In his situation, given the facts
of his case, the rational thing to do is plead guilty without
cooperating and get the benefit of a guilty plea, or plead guilty
and cooperate and get a bigger benefit. The only way it makes
sense for him to go to trial is if he thinks he’s going to get a
pardon.”

Trump ramped up his praise for Manafort on Wednesday, after news
broke that his longtime former attorney, Michael Cohen, had
struck a plea deal with New York prosecutors and signaled that he
would be willing to cooperate with investigators against Trump.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful
family,” Trump tweeted shortly after the Cohen news broke.
“‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things,
applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he
refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’
Such respect for a brave man!”

“If Trump pardons Manafort now, then Manafort can be subpoenaed
to testify,” Whiting said. “And of course, if Manafort pleaded
guilty, he may choose to cooperate. The pardon dangle encourages
Manafort to hang tough, not cooperate, and reap the benefit
later, maybe in a year or two.”

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