President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to charges connected to work he did for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Court records showed Manafort pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering. The charges were filed as a result of information uncovered during the Mueller probe, though the case did not address allegations of Russian election interference.
Update 2:30 p.m. EDT: Court records show that no subjects were considered off-limits as part of the cooperation agreement Manafort accepted as part of his plea deal with Mueller's team, Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree reported.
Update 1:05 p.m. EDT: In a brief statement outside the courthouse Friday, Kevin Downing, a Manafort attorney, confirmed that his client's deal with Mueller's team is a full cooperation agreement, The Washington Post reported.
“He wanted to make sure his family remained safe and live a good life,” Downing said. “He has accepted responsibility.”
Update 12:25 p.m. EDT: Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Friday in court that Manafort must participate in interviews and debriefings, provide documents and testify in future cases for Mueller as part of his plea agreement, The Associated Press reported. She ordered Manafort to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with investigators.
The charges against Manafort were not related to alleged Russian election meddling, but it was during the special counsel's investigation that Mueller's legal team said it discovered that Manafort had hidden millions of dollars that he had received in exchange for work he did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Update 11:45 a.m. EDT: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Manafort's plea was not connected to the Trump presidential campaign or the president himself.
"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign,” she said in a statement. “It is totally unrelated.”
Manafort joined the Trump presidential campaign team in March 2016. He served three months as campaign chair, from June to August 2016, before he was forced to resign amid reports that his firm was involved with covert lobbying in support of a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
Update 11:35 a.m. EDT: Manafort has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, although the charges against him do not touch on allegations of election interference.
Manafort admitted in court documents to witness tampering in coordination with Russian-Ukranian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik. He also admitted that he lied to banks and other financial institutions for more than 10 years, from about 2006 to 2017, and that he failed to pay taxes on more than $12 million worth of items from 2008 to 2014, among other things.
As part of his plea agreement, Manafort agreed to forfeit money and several properties.
Original report: Reports surfaced Thursday that Manafort was working toward a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller's office ahead of a status hearing in the case set for Friday. Manafort faces charges including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Charging documents filed Friday indicated Manafort's plan to plead guilty, according to The Associated Press.
"The charges in Friday's filing were contained in a criminal information, a document that can only be filed with a defendant's consent and typically signals a deal has been reached," the AP reported.
Details of the plea were not immediately available. It was not clear Friday morning whether Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigators as part of the special counsel's probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and it's possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials, The Washington Post reported.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico on Thursday that the president and his legal team saw no issue with reports that Manafort might cooperate with investigators.
“From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself,” Giuliani told the news site. “There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.”
The president has previously praised Manafort for his decision not to plead guilty amid a slew of charges stemming from Mueller’s investigation. Manafort is already facing jail time after a federal jury in Virginia found him guilty last month of tax and bank fraud charges also stemming from his work for Ukraine.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote on Twitter after Manafort’s verdict was announced last month. “’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!”
The guilty verdict came after 11 days of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including Manafort's longtime business partner and former campaign aide Rick Gates.
Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of making false statements and conspiring against the United States and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office.
Manafort's trial was the first prompted by Mueller's investigation, although the case didn't touch on allegations of interference. It was during the special counsel's investigation that Mueller's legal team said it discovered that Manafort had hidden millions of dollars that he had received in exchange for work he did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.