Paul Manafort and special counsel Robert Mueller reach tentative plea deal
Paul Manafort, the criminally convicted former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, reached a tentative plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday, all but ensuring he won’t have to face a second trial later this month, according to a report.
The deal is expected to be announced in court Friday, three people familiar with the matter told ABC News. Manafort and his attorneys agreed to the deal after spending more than four hours in discussions with the special counsel’s team, the sources said.
It was not immediately clear if the deal includes a cooperation component or if Manafort is simply agreeing to plead guilty in order to avoid his upcoming trial in Washington, D.C., on counts of money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying. That trial is supposed to start Sept. 24.
A spokesman for Manafort did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
The 69-year-old longtime GOP operative was convicted on bank and tax fraud charges in Virginia last month. He has yet to be sentenced in that case, but guidelines stipulate he spend seven years behind bars based on that conviction alone.
Manafort’s indictments stem from shadowy lobbying work he did for pro-Kremlin political forces in Ukraine.
He has been in jail since a judge revoked his bail in June after Mueller alleged he had attempted to secure false testimony from witnesses in the Russia investigation.
Michael Caputo, a longtime friend of Manafort who also worked on the Trump campaign, said he doubts Manafort will cooperate with Mueller’s investigators.
“Paul has said all along he will never provide false and fabricated evidence of non-existent Russian collusion the special counsel wants,” Caputo told the New York Daily News. “I certainly don’t think he’s going to start now.”
Manafort’s refusal to budge to the special counsel’s requests for cooperation has resulted in speculation he’s expecting a pardon from the president.
“I don’t want to comment on pardons,” Caputo said when asked whether Manafort is holding out for one.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s top lawyer in the Russia probe, has repeatedly raised the possibility that Trump will pardon Manafort and other political allies targeted by Mueller once his investigation is over.
The president continues to paint Mueller’s investigation as a baseless and partisan “witch hunt” — even though it has already secured nearly 40 indictments against Trump associates and Russians.
Democrats welcomed the latest Manafort development.
“This tentative guilty plea deal for Paul Manafort,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted, “confirms again the following: MOST SUCCESSFUL WITCH HUNT IN US HISTORY.”