Manafort’s Cooperation Deal Will Make a Trump Pardon Way More Unlikely

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty on Friday and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that based on the guidelines, which are determined based on factors such as Manafort's involvement and the nature of the crimes, he faces a range of 210 to 262 months and a $400,000 fine.

On Friday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

On Thursday, CBS News reported that Manafort had reached the deal with federal prosecutors to avoid his upcoming trial on charges related to his foreign lobbying work.

It comes three weeks after Manafort was convicted in a separate trial on eight counts related to financial fraud, and as Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation increasingly pressures the White House.

Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday that "any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or otherwise interfere in this investigation would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress".

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign", she wrote.

Trump last month praised Manafort for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

The plea was all the more stunning for the fact that Manafort is the fifth Trump aide to plead guilty in connection to the special counsel's probe.

"There's nothing he can testify to that would probably lend weight to impeachment because he didn't have close contact with President Trump while he was president", said Dershowitz.

Manafort has aggressively fought the charges against him and taken shots at his co-defendant, Rick Gates, who cut a deal with prosecutors earlier this year that did include an agreement to cooperate with the special counsel.

"He knows nothing harmful to the president and the plea is the best evidence of that", Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday.

In total, Mueller has indicted or extracted guilty pleas from more than 30 people and three companies. He also made sure to point out that the case was about conduct that goes back many years.

During Manafort's Virginia trial, the president had spoken spoke warmly of him.

Manafort also agreed not to appeal any trial or pre-trial issues in his Eastern District of Virginia conviction, and "abandons any interest he has in all forfeitable property and consents to any disposition of the property by the government without further notice" - to the tune of $46 million, something any presidential pardon could not retrieve.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement on Manafort. "Mueller would not have given him a deal unless Manafort was able to help Mueller make a case against someone else or significantly strengthen an existing case".

Behind bars in the Alexandria, Va., detention center, Manafort's dark hair has sprouted patches of gray.

The jury in that case deadlocked on 10 counts that on Friday were dropped as part of the plea deal.

  • Joey Payne