Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Tentative deal reached between Manafort and special counsel

Tentative deal reached between Manafort and special counsel

Special counsel Robert Mueller and former Trump campaign Paul Manafort have reached what ABC News is describing as a "tentative" plea deal to avert his upcoming trial in D.C., the network reported Thursday based on sources familiar with the negotiations. A spokesperson for Manafort declined to comment.

Possible outcomes include Manafort pleading guilty ahead of his second trial or cooperating with the special counsel's office.

Manafort already is facing prison time, having been convicted of eight felony financial-fraud charges earlier this summer in Alexandria, Virginia.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said Wednesday that his team wants to introduce evidence showing the rarity of FARA prosecutions and to argue that the prosecution was instigated by the special counsel's office because Manafort led the Trump campaign. He was also one of three top campaign officials who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government's support for Trump's candidacy.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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Manafort had resisted agreeing to cooperate, particularly where President Trump was concerned, according to ABC News' previous reporting.

What isn't clear is whether Manafort might accept a deal in which prosecutors show leniency in exchange for cooperation.

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal defense attorney, said Thursday that he is not anxious about Manafort cutting a plea deal because Trump's team is convinced he won't say anything damaging about the president. His onetime business partner and protege, Rick Gates, took such a deal and appeared as the government's star witness against Manafort in his Virginia trial last month.

Trump has repeatedly come to Manafort's defense. Opening statements for trial number two are still scheduled (until we learn officially that there won't be a trial) for September 24. In ruling against Manafort's request for a change of venue, Jackson said she could reconsider if they are unable to qualify enough jurors to proceed to jury selection in the case, scheduled to begin September 17. In private discussions with his lawyers, Trump has raised the option of pardoning Manafort.

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