Who will be next after 'brave' Manafort pulls a U-turn on Trump?

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The guilty plea today by Paul Manafort is a "big win" for Robert Mueller that should alarm Donald Trump.

After months of refusing to assist Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference and possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Moscow, Manafort finally took a plea deal on Friday and agreed to cooperate in return for reduced charges. Or Trump could be to fire both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would give him the ability to instruct the Justice Department to terminate the Mueller investigation immediately. Manafort fessed up to urging his business associates on the Ukraine deal to lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the nature of their work.

Manafort, Trump's top political operative from May to August 2016, has always been considered one of the bigger fish for Muller's office. The president's former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in NY.

One of the prosecutors, Andrew Weissman, confirmed in court that Manafort was cooperating with the government's investigation.

He was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces seven to 10 years in prison in that case. Depending on the sentencing decisions of the judges in the two cases, Manafort, 69, could spend up to 31 years in prison.

It's unclear whether any agreement with prosecutors would require him to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

The deal requires him to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

Manafort was present at a June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer at which his son expected to receive possibly damaging information about election opponent Clinton. A grand jury used by Mueller has heard testimony about the meeting. And while he was working on the Trump campaign, emails show Manafort discussed providing private briefings for a wealthy Russian businessman close to Vladimir Putin.

In response to the guilty plea, the White House emphasized that the charges relating to Manafort's activities had "nothing to do" with the 2016 election.

He led the campaign when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.

The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump.

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A court hearing was scheduled Friday for Paul Manafort amid reports that President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman was nearing a plea deal to avoid trial on charges stemming from work he did for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine.

Overall, Manafort forfeited five properties, three bank accounts and a life insurance policy. His "get out of jail free" card is, of course, a presidential pardon, which may be granted by Mr. Trump at any time during his tenure in office.

As part of the lobbying campaign, Manafort admitted to hiring four former European heads of state and senior officials, including a former Austrian chancellor, an Italian prime minister, and a Polish president. In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

Then in February, prosecutors filed new mortgage and tax fraud charges against him weeks after they discovered he was offering to secure his bail with homes tied up in his alleged mortgage fraud.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Paul Manafort seated (L) as his lawyer speaks in court.

Westling agreed in court that the mistried counts in Virginia will be dropped with Manafort's admission of guilt to all his allegations.

Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at George Washington University, said the agreement, which caps at 10 years a sentence which could have been much longer, was a "pretty good deal" that suggested the Mueller team valued Manafort's cooperation.

Manafort's second trial would have been related to Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.

Prosecutors say that Manafort directed a large scale lobbying operation in the USA for Ukrainian interests without registering with the Justice Department as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act. He is now accused of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Even though Manafort and the Trump legal team were operating under a joint defence agreement, in which they would share relevant information, it appears the details of the deal caught Mr Trump's side flat-footed.

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