U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors on Friday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-running probe of Russian election meddling.
Manafort was facing a second trial set to begin on Monday on charges related to Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.
Manafort, in a trial set to begin September 24 in federal court in Washington, is facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering. Manafort and Mueller had also been in plea talks while the jury was in deliberations during his Virginia trial, but those negotiations had fallen through.
The once-powerful Republican operative was found guilty last month of tax and bank fraud charges that could land him in prison for up to 80 years.
His DC trial was set to begin September 24. Any deal would not be final until Manafort admits guilt before the judge, who would need to approve the plea. Manafort's decision could be mixed news for Trump, who tapped the consultant to serve as his campaign chairman in June 2016 as he was securing the GOP presidential nomination.
It's unclear which charges Manafort is pleading guilty to, and whether his deal means that he will actually cooperate with prosecutors.
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The allegations do not involve his work with the Trump campaign.
A superseding criminal information was filed against Manafort in Washington ahead of a scheduled court appearance later Friday morning.
Manafort had the choice to consolidate both cases into one but declined. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Law enforcement officials have come to suspect that Manafort hopes he will be pardoned by the president, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump's presidency. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well. Either he has offered some form of cooperation, one source familiar with the case explained, or the government has concluded that it has hit him with a sufficient number of charges and following through with a second trial is not worth the time and expense.
Writing on Twitter on August 22, Trump said, "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal". "Such respect for a courageous man!"