Donald Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort pleads guilty

Paul Manafort has admitted to conspiracy and witness tampering charges. The relevations came just weeks after Manafort was found guilty on eight other counts.

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for US President Donald Trump, has pled guilty  to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering, court documents indicated on Friday.

The revelations come three weeks after Manafort was convicted in a separate trial on eight counts related to financial fraud as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into election interference.

The new charges relate to his political lobbying work in Ukraine, where he worked on behalf of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, both in Kyiv and in the US. Although such work is required to be registered with US authorities under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Manafort neglected to do so for years.

During this time, Manafort was also actively working for several Russian oligarchs.

Law and Justice | 22.08.2018

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.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated," said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

Longtime Republican advisor

Seen here on the campaign trail with then-candidate Donald Trump, Paul Manafort worked in Washington for decades. He worked for the campaigns of Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, as well as for unsuccessful 1996 candidate Bob Dole. Later he began lobbying for foreign leaders in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia-friendly politicians in Ukraine.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

History of working with dictators

His firm Manafort, Black and Kelly lobbied the US government on behalf of a number of unsavory characters including dictators like Jonas Savimbi, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych, and others. Lobbying for foreign countries requires registration with the Justice Department, which Manafort failed to do.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

Corruption allegations

Ukraine's new government has accused Manafort of receiving illegal, off-the-record payments from its predecessor. During Ukraine's 2014 uprising, Manafort is also accused of supporting the violent removal of protestors from Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti square. Dozens of demonstrators were shot by police.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

Manafort's right hand man

As Manafort's trial begins, one of the key witnesses against him will be Rick Gates, who has cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Gates pleaded guilty in February and is cooperating with prosecutors. Gates has knowledge of Manafort's offshore bank accounts, his work for Ukraine and his relationship with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

Alleged witness tampering

In this photo from Manafort's consutling offices, Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence, poses for a photo with Manafort and others. It is one of the few images known to exist of Kilimnik, who has been accused by the Mueller investigation of witness tampering.

Paul Manafort: Political insider

Indicted by federal grand jury

After being indicted, Manafort was allowed to remain free on bail after posting a $10 million dollar bond. A judge sent him to prison when prosecutors accused him of attempting to tamper with the testimony of two witnesses. In prison, Manafort was given VIP treatment, which included having a phone and a laptop.

Working for Mueller

Pleading guilty to these charges allowed Manafort to make a deal with prosecutors, and avoid adding jail time to the ten years he is already facing for the earlier convictions. 

As part of the deal, Manafort has agreed to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with the special counsel investigation. 

Although this move avoids a potentially embarrassing trial for Republicans in the run-up to the US midterm elections, it likely dashes any earlier hope of a presidential pardon. Trump had signaled a willingness to consider clemency for Manafort through his spokesman Rudy Giuliani. Trump has also favorably compared Manafort to Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer. The president praised Manafort for refusing to "break" and talk to Mueller, unlike Cohen.

Cohen has plead guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, including paying off adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

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