Experts say this is a big win for Mueller and a big loss for Trump

By Maura Hohman
September 14, 2018 02:20 PM
Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump‘s former campaign chairman, pled guilty on Friday to two criminal charges as part of a deal that requires him to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.

Manafort, 69, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses, CNN reported Friday, citing court documents. The charges are related to Manafort’s Ukrainian political consulting work.

“This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign… It is totally unrelated,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said following the deal.

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” said the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong.”

Manafort’s deal means he won’t stand trial for a second time after being convicted in August on eight felony counts of bank and tax fraud.

As part of what prosecutor Andrew Weissmann described to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson as a “cooperation agreement,” Manafort could provide evidence in exchange for a less stringent sentence, which may lead to more definitive answers about whether anyone associated with Trump conspired with Russia to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. According to CNN, the exact scope of the cooperation agreement wasn’t immediately clear, and he’s already offered information to the Justice Department.

RELATED: Paul Manafort and Another Former Trump Aide Have Been Charged in Mueller’s Russia Probe

Those in Manafort’s camp previously said that he does not have any incriminating information about the president, according to the Washington Post.

Legal experts told The Atlantic the deal is a win for Mueller and a loss for the president. Judge Jackson said Manafort will have to turn in interviews, documents and briefings to the investigation, and he’s waived his right to have an attorney present when speaking to special counsel. He also may testify as a witness in other proceedings relating to the investigation.

“Tough day for Mr. Manafort,” Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorney, said outside the D.C. courthouse on Friday. “But he’s accepted responsibility… He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”